The Physical and Mental Benefits of Movement During the Workday

by | Updated January 29, 2020 | Wellness

You might have heard the new truism that “sitting is the new smoking.” What this phrase calls attention to is how the seemingly harmless act of sitting all day long can actually be undermining your health and productivity. In a profession where we are likely in front of a screen and behind a desk for eight or more hours a day, this should be especially alarming. Not only could you be hurting your well-being, but your amount of output and efficiency as well.

Scary Stats

• In developed countries, people sit up to 8-9 hours a day
• Prolonged sitting can cause heart disease, injury, and fatigue
• Experts suggest getting 10,000 steps or more per day. However, most American get between 5,000 and 7,000

The physiology of humans expects movement. Our muscles were made to move, and not just in the sense of exercise at the gym. When a “normal” amount of everyday movement isn’t happening the effects are evident at cognitive levels as well as physical. According to research summarized by Dr. James Levine, professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, in his 2009 book Move a Little, Lose a Lot, sitting too long can put our brains into a slumbering state, resulting in slower processing speed and impeded problem-solving capability, learning, and memory retention.

Now don’t go thinking you need to run a marathon to make a difference! A little effort can pay big dividends. Even a small amount of activity can have physical and mental benefits. A new study has shown that even 10 minutes of exercise at a time is enough to boost brain activity.

Increasing your movement during the day (even a little) will help your physical and mental state.

Helpful Stats

• Experts recommend standing 5-20 minutes per hour
• A 10-minute brisk walk is equivalent to 1,000 steps
• Research suggests walking just 5 min. per hour can increase your mood, improve your concentration and productivity, and even dull your hunger

What can you do? Here are some tips below, including some ideas witnessed in practice around the Stoneridge offices.

How to increase standing and walking time during the work week:

1. Walk or bike to work or at least park further from work.

If it’s not in your wheelhouse to walk or bike to work. consider parking in the furthest corner of the office lot or park down the street. If this isn’t possible, take a short walk around your building before going inside. With just ten minutes of walking, you can get in 10% of your day’s steps.

2. Talk to your colleague face-to-face

Walk to your colleague’s desk rather than shooting them an IM or email. Encourage your colleagues to do the same.

3. Revamp meetings

Stand up during a standup. Suggest standing or walking meeting with coworkers. Almost any meeting that’s based around conversation can be converted into a standing or walking meeting. If there aren’t enough chairs at any given meeting, volunteer to stand.

4. Use your adjustable desk

Height adjustable furniture can reduce sitting up to 60%, as long as you actually use it! Try to alternate between standing and sitting at your desk throughout the day.

5. Make use of your lunch break

Lunch break is one of the most valuable times to chalk up your work-day steps. Volunteer to make the food run for coworkers, walk to pick up your food if it’s close enough and take a brisk walk before or after you eat. Ask your co-worker to join you to get some socializing in as well.

6. The little things

Set reminders to move so that you’re getting in extra steps each hour. Take the inconvenient way from point A to point B – don’t just beeline for the break room or restroom, take a full loop around the office. After using the bathroom or grabbing your snack, walk up and down the stairs a couple times before returning to your desk. We don’t have a dress code! Wear comfortable clothes to encourage movement and download a steps-tracking app if you don’t have a Fitbit or Apple watch.

7. Take a stretch break

In March of 2017, the Stoneridge Wellness Committee hosted TC Fit to teach us about the benefits of movement and lead us through a recommended 10-minute stretch break. View the video and queue it up for your next break! Stretching begins around minute 7:30.

Benefits of movement during the workday

Resources used in this blog:

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