Ditch the desk: Ways for the working class to be active
Plopping down onto their designated cubicles and staring mindlessly at a lit screen for hours on end is an accurate description of how many white-collar workers are getting their jobs done on a daily basis. We sit for most of our waking hours—while we're eating, working, and just generally chilling about. But sitting down for extended lengths of time is alarmingly hazardous to our health, contributing to a myriad of health issues such as back pains, repetitive stress injuries, obesity, and even an increased risk of diabetes, heart and kidney disease.
The human body was never designed to be idle, and regardless of an individual's healthy lifestyle habits or vigorous fitness workouts, increased sitting time is linked with poorer health outcomes despite the higher levels of activity engagement. This is because the lack of movement slows down metabolism, while promoting the body's accumulation of fat. Even if our daily duties and overbearing deadlines are keeping our fingers glued to our laptops and our work ethics prompt, sustaining an active lifestyle and having enough exercise is essential to balancing out the physical, mental and emotional strain procured through manoeuvring the tough responsibilities experienced through our working lives.
Regular exercise helps negate the risks of contacting chronic diseases and reduce stress, and it is able to boost self-esteem, mood, and energy levels while improving our quality of sleep. Being active is already the miracle cure to many of the ailments we may potentially face in our lives, and structured exercises (such as gym, aerobics class, yoga, and the like) are a good way to introduce and facilitate a more active approach to your daily routines. No excuses, because there's always something out there to tickle your fancy. Don't be a victim of 'sitting disease'—your body and mind deserves so much more than to bear the brunt of your sedentary lifestyle. Plus, sitting makes your bum bigger—so unless you want your jeans to not fit as well as they use to, it's time to get up and shape up for a better you.
Here are some easy tips to get you up and moving, even at the office. You'll be surprised at how your body is reacting positively to these changes after a mere few weeks!
Get up and shake it off
♦ Unlatch yourself from the comfortable—or the not so comfy—seat of your workspace every 20 minutes or so to give your muscles and body a stretch. Walk around the office; get some water from the cooler, or personally hand over documents to a colleague who sits on the other side of the office. If you find that taking these movement breaks prove to be quite a challenge to do, set a timer on your phone to remind you of your walking intervals.
♦ Go for a walk during lunch. Even if it means walking around a shopping centre. And definitely avoid eating at your desk. It'll do you a world of wonders while allowing your fatigued eyes to rest too.
8th Floor? No problem, I'll take the stairs
♦ Ah, stairs. This age-old, frequently acknowledged and deceptively simple method to get people to slide in more physical activity in their sedentary lives does have some merit to it. A Swedish study suggested taking the stairs as a fuss-free way to cut down risk of cardiovascular disease. Not only do you not have to squeeze in with a bunch of other people in the lifts by taking the stairs, you'll also experience some positive health changes, such as increased lung capacity and stronger leg muscles too.
♦ Everyone enjoys a little challenge here and there to help spice up the humdrums of their everyday routine. Incorporate some fun and bonding time in work hours by implementing fitness challenges, and getting people in the office involved. Go crazy and be creative—from 2 minute plank challenges, 100 meter sprints, to battling out with the boss on a fitness trial of choice, the possibilities are endless. If you're not one for competition, why not gather everyone around for a relaxing yoga or pilates session right in the middle of the office to build up a sense of calm collectiveness for better work efficacy?
Avoid the boardroom and opt for walking meetings
♦ Who says that all corporate meetings have to be confined to a stuffy boardroom that only tackles dreary, tedious agendas? Try something different by going on walking meetings outdoors—the fresh burst of sunshine and lush, natural surroundings will certainly put everyone in a more refreshed, upbeat mood. Walking is able to boost creativity too—a study conducted by Stanford researchers discovered that the act of walking had a hand in boosting creativity while a person is walking, and shortly thereafter. Get the creative juices flowing by moving your feet. If that wasn't motivation enough, innovative heads like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg avidly integrated walking meetings into their work schedules as well.
Working out while you work: Treadmill / Walking / Standing desks
♦ Instead of sitting down all day, why not burn some calories while you're busy finishing up that huge proposal that's due by the week's end? The recently trending treadmill desks are starting to have a permanent spot in many office spaces worldwide. Employees are technically still at their workstations—only, they are completing their tasks while constantly walking at a steady pace. If the notion seems a bit too troublesome for you, a simpler option would be an ergonomic, height-adjustable standing desk, that helps prevent repetitive strain injuries in common problematic areas like the spine and wrists.
Even if you're out of town on business trips without any proper equipment or gym access, you're only limited by the physical space you have available to you. Be creative—from simple squats, lunges, crunches and push-ups to taking advantage of your hotel amenities, with the right knowledge and motivation to, anyone can lead a healthier, active lifestyle even if they hold 9-to-5 desk jobs. It's time to put your best foot forward and start moving!
Edited by Clarissa Loi