February is Heart Month, the perfect time to reflect on your cardiovascular health. Today, more than three-quarters of Canadian adults don't meet the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines. Believe it or not, many remain seated for 10 or more hours a day!
And that’s bad news for our heart health.
Research shows that being physically inactive doubles your risk of heart disease and stroke. Especially if you work in an office, finding ways to move around and do cardiovascular activities throughout the day is one of the best ways to protect your heart.
So let’s talk about how to exercise at work, with these simple tips to get started.
How much should you exercise, anyway?
According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, adults should get at least 150 minutes of aerobic physical activity per week. You can break up that time in different ways, as long as each workout lasts 10 minutes or longer.
But exercise alone may not be enough to protect your health. Even in people who are physically active, ongoing sedentary behaviour can lead to a 15 to 20% higher risk of heart disease.
That’s a scary statistic, but the good news is that it’s largely preventable.
One easy solution for office workers is to get a standing desk. This will prevent you from sitting all day long, and can even help keep you more alert and focused. You can opt to move your legs and body around while you work, and alternate between standing and sitting if you get tired.
When looking at how to stay in shape with a desk job, there are also some simple exercises you can do to get your heart rate up during your workday.
Get Moving! 9 Office Exercises to do Throughout the Workday
1. Start a walking group with people at work
Not only is it more fun to exercise with others, you’ll also be more likely to stick to the routine and feel more productive in the afternoon. By holding each other accountable, everyone is more likely to get outside—even (or maybe especially) if it is a stressful day at work.
2. Take advantage of your lunch hour
Research which gyms or fitness centres are in the area and what they offer during lunch hours. Alternatively, if your building has a gym, commit to working out a few times a week during your break.
3. Start a fun challenge with your co-workers
See who can take the stairs instead of the elevator every day for a month. Consider bringing in a jar and starting an “elevator fund,” so that each time someone uses the elevator, they have to put in $5 to be put toward a team lunch at the end of the month.
4. Develop an office workout routine
Bodyweight exercises such as squats, push ups, planks, lunges, crunches, jumping jacks, and back extensions are all great ways to get your heart rate going. Plus, they can be done at any time without any special equipment!
5. Take frequent breaks
Suggest that everyone set an alarm on their computer once every hour, or every other hour, reminding them to take a break and move around. Even walking to the bathroom or taking a quick lap around the office can be enough to get your circulation going.
6. Sign up as a “work team” for a race
A charity run for a cause that is close to everyone’s heart is an excellent way to get your office motivated. This year, the Vancouver Sun Run takes place on April 22, so there’s still lots of time to train. Another option is the Workout to Conquer Cancer in May, which challenges you to do some form of exercise every day for a month.
7. Try office yoga
Yoga can easily be done without any equipment, and there are lots of great online videos out there. Even if there aren't any rooms available for a proper lunchtime class, an empty cubicle can be enough space for a quick yoga sequence.
8. Bike to work!
With bicycle sharing options like Shaw’s Mobi Bikes available, there’s really no excuse not to.
Office stretching exercises are a simple way to improve your posture and stay active. Some easy standing stretches include:
- Rotating your torso from side to side
- Arm swings (make sure to look around you first)
- Calf stretches
Start a workplace wellness program
Finally, workplaces that offer an employee wellness program can further encourage fitness in a variety of ways. Workplace wellness programs promote health, fitness, and the social and emotional factors that enhance life. They are highly customizable and can include everything from in-house fitness facilities to sponsored gym memberships and company sports team initiatives.
When participating in a wellness program, employees can set fitness goals individually or as a group, and then work together to achieve them. This is a great way for everyone to keep motivated in the long term.
Although it can be difficult to prioritize exercise at work, there are lots of simple ways to make it possible. This year, commit to taking workplace wellness seriously, but don’t forget to make it fun!
Committing to better health together with colleagues and employees is a great way to keep the momentum going and meet your goals. Consider implementing an employee wellness program, which will provide ongoing health support and help you streamline your efforts. Your heart—and your team—will thank you for it.