Energizer: Office Workplace
Sedentary behaviour is defined as “as any waking behaviour characterized by an energy expenditure ≤1.5 METs while in a sitting or reclining posture”.1 As you may have read in one of our previous blogs, sedentary behaviour is increasingly being linked to a number of chronic diseases such as heart disease, type II diabetes and cancer and could lead to a shorter lifespan. Further, meeting the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate – to vigorous-intensity physical activity each week is not enough to reverse or negate the effects of sitting for the majority of the day.2
Of course, not all jobs involve sitting at a desk. Nurses, construction workers, and police on foot patrol or bikes, for example, reap the benefits of physical activity while at work, and as such, decrease their risk of heart disease, stroke, type II diabetes, osteoporosis, depression, and some forms of cancer, and improve their energy levels, self-esteem, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, immune function, weight, sleep habits and overall life expectancy, just to name a few.3 Others, whose jobs involve standing – hair stylists, physiotherapists, bank employees, assembly line workers – will also reap some of these benefits.
Working at a desk, likely the most sedentary of all jobs, requires a bit more effort. But, the news is good! Because, the solution for sitting all day is as simple as standing up! At least once an hour, stand up. It’s that simple. Like, right now … stand up! Now that you’re up, you may want to move around a bit, I’ll wait ….
Now that you’re back (and you can keep standing to read on), consider how to get your colleagues up and active. A number of ideas come to mind including having standing and walking meetings, challenging people to take the stairs in office buildings, running a walking club (or should that be walking a walking club?), or offering classes, such as yoga, Zumba or Pilates. Another simple and fun way to get people more active is encouraging staff to participate in an energizer each day.
Energizer: Active Office Circuit
The equipment required will vary based on how you design your circuit. The circuit below requires no equipment, but sneakers are recommended. Encourage employees to keep a pair under their desks for this energizer and other opportunities to be active at work.
The circuit could be led by one person with everyone participating at the same time or the circuit can be sent ahead of time to each of the employees so that they can do it in small groups, business teams, at different locations or on their own when they identify their need for a break.
- Warm up: Stand up from your desk and start marching on the spot. Pump your arms.
- Get your heart pumping: Walk or wheel, briskly, around the office. If office space is small, stay at your desk and stand up/sit down for one minute continuously.
- “Stair Master”: If your office has stairs, challenge yourself by walking up and down a few flights of stairs before returning to your office area.
- Flex your muscle: Once back in your office area, find a wall and do 10 wall push ups. Then, using the wall for support, try a wall sit – build up your leg strength and keep trying to increase the amount of time.
- Chair position: Find a stable chair (one without wheels) and do Triceps dips: hold the arms of the chair (or put them on the seat) and dip down to the floor without having your seat touch the floor.
- Where there is space, do a plank. Again, start with what you can do and continue to challenge yourself to maintain the plank for a longer period each time.
- Cool down: Go for a slow stroll back around the office
- Stretch it out: Finish with a few stretches, including your neck and lower back. See Stretching exercises for the office: https://www.mcgill.ca/hr/files/hr/stretching_in_the_office-1.pdf
For people using a wheelchair, warm-up using arm exercises and continue wheeling while others are climbing stairs. Another activity is to pull yourself towards and away from your desk continuously for one minute, using your arms. In place of wall exercises, use weights or other weighted objects found at your workplace.
Getting active at work helps employees feel more energetic, productive and creative. It helps increase fitness levels and strength that can help lower injuries on the job. And, employees who feel that their health and well-being are a priority for their company, are more satisfied with their workplace.4 Getting active at work can be as simple as setting aside some time during breaks and/or lunch to go for a walk, using the stairs instead of the elevator and using active or public transportation to and from work. And don’t forget, you can always take a stand for more health benefits!
1Sedentary Behaviour Research Network, 2012. Standardized use of the terms “sedentary” and “sedentary behaviours”. Appl. Physiol. Nutr. Metab. 37: 540–542, 2012. www.sedentarybehaviour.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Letter-APNM-2012.pdf
3Warburton, D.E.R., Crystal Whitney Nicol, and Shannon S.D. Bredin. Health Benefits of Physical Activity: The Evidence. Canadian Medical Association Journal 174, no. 6 (2006): 801–9.
4Tower Watson’s 2013/2014 Staying@Work Survey as cited in Chénier, Louise. Moving Ahead: Workplace Interventions to Reduce Physical Inactivity and Sedentary Behaviour. Ottawa: The Conference Board of Canada, 2015.