Saturday Essay: How To Overcome A Sedentary Lifestyle
Photo by Luke Chesser on Unsplash
It’s no secret that sitting all day is bad for us. Studies show that staying sedentary — that is, sitting at a desk — for long periods increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer. It takes a toll on us mentally, too; sitting for too long affects our mood, memory, and sleep quality.
And while changes in the way we work briefly helped curb the impact of sedentary lifestyles, the novelty appears to be wearing off. Exercise peaked during the first lockdown in Spring 2020, with 70% of UK adults leaving their homes to get active, but by the early 2021 lockdown, this figure dropped to just 55% — and continues to fall.
With restrictions easing again, workers need a way to prevent themselves from falling back into an inactive slump.
Image by Yerson Retamal
Co-working and workspace provider Bruntwood Works has teamed up with Manchester-based personal training provider FORM to help you inject more exercise into your workday.
The true power of exercise
Getting off your feet during the day is pivotal to a happier, healthier mindset.
“Exercise naturally reduces stress levels, promoting better mental health in the workplace,” says Libby Smith, Founder and Director of FORM.
“By releasing those endorphins, employees are better equipped to navigate the trials of everyday office life, while employers enjoy stronger attendance and morale across the board.
Better still, employers can take solace in knowing active lifestyles create surges in productivity.
If you’re returning to the office, there are some easy ways you can bake regular exercise back into your routine.
10 exercises you can do at your desk
1. Head rolls
Helps with: Stiff neck
Loosen up your neck and increase blood flow to your brain with a head roll. Tuck your chin into your chest, then slowly rotate your head around your shoulders until you’re back to the starting point. Then, go back the other way.
2. Shoulder shrugs
Helps with: Upper back pain
You can strengthen the muscles in your back to alleviate tension and knots with some shoulder shrugs. First, lift your shoulders to your ears and hold for a few seconds before dropping again. Repeat until you can feel your muscles loosen.
3.Press your hands together
Helps with: Strengthening your chest and arms.
Press your palms together in front of your chest and press them against one another. Hold for a few seconds. You should feel some tension in your arms, shoulders and chest. This gently works your triceps and pectorals to increase blood flow and help them relax.
4. Pull your hands apart
Photo by Headway on Unsplash
Helps with: Strengthening your chest and arms.
Put your palms together. Turn one hand the other way around so that one thumb points to the ceiling and one to the floor. Hook your hands together with your fingers and pull for a few seconds. Doing so will strengthen your biceps; you’ll feel some tension in your shoulders too.
5. Glute contractions
Helps with: Stiff legs, lower back pain
Tense and hold your glutes for 5-10 seconds, release, and repeat. This helps blood flow to your glutes and your legs, helping prevent stiffness or numbness. Syncing contractions with music can help maintain a helpful rhythm to ensure you tense your muscles for long enough.
6. Lower ab leg raises
Helps with: Strengthening your lower abs.
Put your feet together and slowly raise your legs until they’re at a 90-degree angle to your body. Hold for a few seconds, then slowly lower them again. After repeating this a few times, you should feel the burn in your lower abs.
7. Arm pulses
Helps with: Strengthening your triceps.
Stand up at your desk with arms by your sides and palms facing behind. Pulse the arms backwards for 20 seconds, keeping arms as long and straight as possible. Arm pulses help stretch out your shoulders and work your triceps.
8. Calf raises
Helps with: Stiff or aching legs
Strengthen your calves and help relieve a build-up of pressure that you can get in your legs if you’ve been sitting all day. Stand up behind your chair, holding onto it for support. Push yourself up on your tiptoes, then slowly lower yourself back to the floor and repeat.
9. Wall Sits
Helps with: Strengthening your quads.
Slide your back down a wall until your hips are at the same level as your knees. Keep your knees together at a 90-degree angle. Try to hold that position for 60 seconds, then release. Repeat until you can feel the burn in your quads.
10. Seated Bicycle Crunches
Helps with: Strengthening your abs.
Work on your abs and obliques with this core workout. Sit in your chair with your feet flat on the floor and put your heads behind your head. Lift one knee toward the opposite elbow while twisting your body towards it, then return to your starting position. Alternate between knees for a total of around 30 reps.
What employers can do
A return to the office doesn’t have to mean a relapse to the sedentary lifestyle of old. Instead, plan exercise into your day to enjoy the benefits of the office without hindering your health. Whether it’s before your commute, after work or even on your lunch break, the opportunities are everywhere.
For employers, this means prioritising commitments that will help keep your staff active.
“By offering an on-site gym or reduced membership package to your teams, you’re demonstrating your commitment to their wellbeing,” says Libby of FORM.
“Taking it a step further, it shows you take a holistic attitude to prioritising their physical and mental wellbeing, offering them benefits that have a ripple effect beyond the workplace.”
Making a real change to sedentary working
Bruntwood Works is tackling this issue head on in a joint venture with personal training provider FORM. Staff working at Bruntwood Works’ Manchester workspaces now have access to fitness classes and sessions throughout the workday to help counter the effects of prolonged sitting.
Chris Oglesby, CEO of Bruntwood,
is a passionate ambassador for the benefits of promoting healthy lifestyles in the workplace.
“Our work and personal lives are blurring. Now we’ve learned we can work from home, professional workspaces need to offer more value. For a building to appeal to a business and its employees, it has to be more than a place where people sit and work – we need to find solutions for other parts of their lives, too, and create environments where they thrive both professionally and personally.”
The FORM x Bruntwood Works fitness concept represents “our part of the contract in helping people be the best versions of themselves.”