Here’s some news that might shock you: Exercise is very, very good for you. It’s good for your mind and it’s good for your body.
But we all live such busy lives, and not all of us are able to squeeze regular exercise into our already hectic schedules.
Well here’s an idea – if you can’t escape the office to exercise, why not exercise in the office?
3 Reasons Why Office Fitness is a Great Idea
We’re not talking about installing gym equipment in the staff room here (though that is a great idea!) – we’re talking about simple yet effective exercises that you can easily incorporate into your working day. For some of them, you don’t even have to leave your desk.
But before we explore how, let’s take a quick look at the why. Here’s why it’s a great idea to introduce office fitness to your workplace:
- Exercise is an integral part of any employee wellbeing program – A good employee wellbeing program will make your employees happier and more productive. It will improve relationships between staff and management, reduce staff retention, and generally make your workplace a more pleasant place to be. We recently investigated the wellbeing programs of some of the world’s most successful organizations. Almost all champions of a culture of regular exercise.
- Less stress, more happiness – Stress is one of the biggest causes of unplanned absences in the workplace. And unplanned absences can cost your business dearly. But along with many other health benefits, regular exercise can significantly reduce stress levels. So encouraging employees to exercise more is a great way to manage stress in the workplace.
- Fight a modern epidemic – You might have heard that sitting is the new smoking. It seems that sitting for more than six hours a day can greatly increase your risk of early death. Most working days are eight hours long. An alarmist could argue that our office jobs are literally killing us. So what not stop the rot with some simple office exercises?
Office exercises could make you and your team healthier, happier, and more productive – both in the workplace and in your lives outside of work. Sounds good! So now let’s take a look at how your office workout plan might work.
First, we’ll explore five habits and routines you can build into your routine. Then we’ll look at five physical exercises that are perfect for the workplace.
5 Easy Ways to Stay fit and Active at Work
Stand and walk as often as you’re able. Walk to the watercooler or the coffee machine. Walk to the printer or the photocopier. Go and speak to colleagues on the other side of the office rather than emailing them. A few minutes of walking here and there won’t seem like much. But over the course of a full working day it’ll all add up, and really help to break the curse of sitting.
You could also incorporate more elaborate walks into your day. If you’re based in a city, or near some green space, there’ll be loads of places to walk during your breaks. But even if you’re based in the middle of a concrete business park, a few laps of the building could still put a spring in your step!
2. Take the Stairs
This is another general habit to take up rather than a specific exercise to try. If your building has stairs, and if you’re able to take them, then take them!
Ignore the lift and you’ll build a series of small cardio exercises into your day. You could even attempt some more demanding exercises during your breaks, like going from the bottom floor to the top, then back again, and back again!
From reducing stress to improving concentration, yoga brings a bunch of health benefits that could make you and your workforce happier and more harmonious.
Any members of your team who already practice yoga could be encouraged to take their yoga mats to work, and even a five-minute routine in the corner of the breakroom could bring huge gains. And if anyone else wants to take part, you could hire a yoga instructor for an afternoon to demonstrate a few poses.
4. Specialist Office Furniture
If all this talk of interrupting the workday to exercise is making you worry about productivity, worry not. Exercise has been proven to increase productivity and concentration. It’s remaining inactive for hours at a time can kill creativity and motivation. But if you want your team to enjoy the benefits of exercise without risking any disruption, consider investing in some specialist office furniture.
Some desks can be converted into standing desks. Combine standing desks with treadmills and your team can get a full cardio workout while they check the spreadsheets. It’s also possible to get special chairs that require the sitter to constantly shift their weight to stay balanced, giving an excellent core workout.
5. Deep Breathing
You don’t necessarily have to break a sweat to get an office workout. A series of deep and mindful breathing exercises can work wonders for concentration, motivation, and stress management.
If you’ve never tried diaphragmatic breathing, you might be surprised at just how good something as routine as breathing can be. Put your shoulders back and put one hand on your belly, and the other on your chest. Breathe deeply through your nose and focus on how your belly fills up with air. Then breathe out slowly through the lips. Do this a few more times and that irritating email from management might not seem so irritating anymore.
5 Office Exercises to Energise Your Team
1. The Lord of the Dance
Just think back to every time you’ve ever found yourself in the middle of a dancefloor grooving like nobody’s watching. Wave your hands in the air like you just don’t care! Stand up and march on the spot. Raise your knees as high as you can manage, and push up to the ceiling with your palms up and your thumbs nearly touching your shoulders, before bringing your hands down again. Keep this up for as long as you can. You can add a bit of resistance by holding water bottles or hole punches while you do it.
2. The Shoulder-Loosener
Sit too long staring at a computer screen and you might start to feel horribly tight between your shoulders. This simple exercise will ease that tension as you get your heart pumping. Again, you need to stand up and march in place. Bend forward at the hips at an angle of around 45°. Pretend you’re holding a pair of invisible weights just in front of your chest, with bent elbows. Then it’s simply a case of extending your arms behind you as you continue to march.
3. Sitting and Stretching
You don’t even have to leave your desk for this one! You’re going to stretch each part of your body, from your head to your toes, in turn. Start by tilting your head towards your right shoulder, holding it for 10 seconds, before doing the same towards your left shoulder. Next, roll your shoulders forward in a circular motion ten times, then backward a further 10 times. Then, your feet. Hold one foot off the floor with a straight leg. Flex your ankle to point your toes up. Extend to point your toes down. Repeat 10 times then do the same for your other foot. Finally, draw a circle with your toes, moving first clockwise 10 times then anti-clockwise, before changing feet.
4. Corporate Calisthenics
Nothing like limbering up while you wait for a big copying job to finish! Hold on to something for support – that could be the photocopier, the printer, your desk, or your chair. Place both feet on the ground shoulder-width apart. Lift one leg back, keeping it straight, then slowly lower it. Repeat 10 times, then do the same for the other leg.
5. The Chair Squat
This one’s a bit more strenuous than the others, but it can really help you to tone up and energize. From a seated position, plant your feet firmly on the floor and lift yourself until your hips are just hovering over the chair. Hold that pose for a couple of seconds before standing all the way up, then returning to your hovering position. Repeat this up to 20 times. You may have to hold your arms out for support.
The Problem with Office Fitness
The only problem with office fitness is that you may feel self-conscious while doing some of these movements.
Well, first of all, you shouldn’t worry about what people think about you. Your health is more important than a few strange looks from accounting!
But there’s a very easy way to dispel all the potential embarrassment of office exercises: The more people that take part, the less self-conscious you’ll feel!
You may struggle to get people on board with your office fitness program. For a bit of advice on how to convince people to buy into your wellbeing scheme, take a look at our blog exploring the biggest barriers to employee wellness.
Katrina is edays' own People Director with significant UK and international experience in delivering people strategy and value-adding HR solutions across a range of organisations and sectors (including Arriva, Boots, Rolls Royce, the utility and charity sectors). Katrina has over 20 years of experience in Human Resources and is CIPD qualified.