Most all of us understand that exercising regularly has many benefits for the human body. Besides the already prevalent weight loss benefits, exercise can reduce stress, boost motivation, improve attitude, and bring fun to an office work space. A common excuse for not partaking in regular exercise is that people just don’t have enough time in their day. After a full 9-5 we just want to lounge on the couch and fantasize about E! News, rather than working up a sweat. What most don’t understand, however; is that incorporating simple passive exercises into an office work space can go much farther than expected. Taking 5 minutes a day can start to add up quickly, and some of the exercises we about to mention can be done while we all sit at our desks and perform our daily tasks and audits. The oh so common time-constraint excuse is irrelevant when you knock out two birds with one stone. Hopefully by the end of reading this article you will try to implement one of these exercise inducing activities into your own cubicle.
The Exercise Ball
Office chairs are obviously not like your Lazy Boy, but a stability ball can be an exercise inducing alternative. Sitting in an office chair can be harmful to one’s posture, as encourages users to sit in improper positions. Think about your posture while reading this article. Chances are that you’re slouching, backwards or forwards, creating unnecessary tension in your shoulders, neck, back, and hips. It might not seem like much of an exercise, but the passive activation of muscle groups can lead to improve concentration, and reduced lower back pain. Because a ball is obviously round, your body is working to maintain your balance. It also allows users to have a more full range of motion, as workers can move back and forth, backwards, and even up and down without ever having to leave the comfort of a cubicle. With their low impact and high value ratio, stability balls are commonly used to induce exercise in elder populations – but that won’t make it any less effective in an office environment.
The Standing Desk
Sitting in an office chair for extended periods of time can lead to poor posture, back pain, and shoulder pain. Blood flow can be restricted to your lower extremities which can result in weakened muscles, and decreased lower body strength. Having a desk with adjustable heights allows employees to break away from the standard desk. Standing desks promote circulatory health by increasing the circulation in the legs a feet, which can reduce blood pressure and ease stress on the heart. Standing desks to not allow your body to fall into the common sedentary traps of sitting desks – while providing a multitude of healthy positions. For example, elevating a foot through the use of a stool or box can ease the tension built up in the lower back. The adjustable height feature also allows employees to position the desks in a customized manner. When the arms are able to naturally position themselves on the desk, tension from the shoulders and neck reduces greatly, easing tightness and sore muscles.
A great way to get employees into stretching at their desk is making sure they know how to properly do it. It may not seem to complex, but more often than not, people stretch improperly. By incorporating a “How To Stretch” poster into the office decor, you will encourage employees to engaged in regular stretching while they sit at their desks. Stretching is important for a number of reasons. It passively activates antagonist and agonist muscle groups and improves blood circulation, for starters. Stretching can increase alertness and attention to detail, improve productivity, and reduce muscle soreness. Stretching also gives employees a reason to stand up and step away from their chair in incremental sessions. This will reduce burnout and improve mindfulness. It is important to target all large muscle groups when stretching. An easy way to remember which body parts need to be targeting is to recall the nursery rhyme, “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”. Starting at the head and working your way down is a good way to ensure that you’ve effectively stretched each muscle group.
The Infamous Stairs
Using the stairs can be a great way to get in those few extra minutes of exercise each day. Unfortunately, many office are on the twelfth floor, a far cry from the lobby. Many athletes don’t even want to walk up twelve flights of stairs. Fortunately, there is an easier, effective way to utilize the staircases within the office building. For example, Advize Health’s office is on the eleventh floor of a Downtown Tampa building. Instead of struggling up eleven flights of stairs, I take the elevator to the tenth floor, and use the stairs to cover the remaining elevation. This method is effective and engaging, because it allows people to set personal goals. On Mondays only walk one flight of stairs; on Tuesdays, walk two flights and so on. Walking for a total of 60 minutes a week can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, and activate muscles in your lower extremities. Exercising your legs is important, because office-oriented careers often require a sedentary workweek, and we all know that sitting for prolonged periods of time is extremely damaging to the cardiovascular system and the lower quadrants of the body.
Who thought something as simple as breathing could be so beneficial, right? In fact, besides the essential function of maintaining homeostasis, breathing can be a great way to clear the mind of stress and prepare our bodies for upcoming meetings, presentations, and strenuous yoga poses. Before we enlighten you on the physiological and psychological benefits of deep breathing, lets take a moment to close your eyes (after reading the next paragraph of course), and let your body relax.
Back away from your desk while remaining seated in your office chair. Find a position that feels most comfortable and let your head fall forward so that your chin is resting on your chest. Now, take a slow deep breath in for 6 seconds; and slowly breath out for another 6 seconds. Keep breathing at this pace while your eyes remain closed and your head rests forward. Feel the placement of your fingers; and your arms; your legs; and your toes. Think only about the position of your body and the relaxation of your limbs. Clear your mind of daily activities and stressors. The only thing that should matter is the feeling of relaxation that is radiating through your body. Continue to breath in deeply through your nose and steadily exhale through your mouth. Perform this exercise for 2-5 minutes.
How do you feel?
Breathing exercises are a great way to clear your mind and stimulate motivation and concentration that may have been lost over the course of the day. I’m sure we have all struggled through an activity and couldn’t stay concentrated. Taking a few moments away from your desk to clear your head can improve your quality of work and improve you mood. Besides the reoccurring thoughts of taking a nap after deep breathing, you will be able to calm your nervousness before a big presentation, or quell your frustrations after speaking to an angry provider.
In the end, maintaining a happy and healthy employee can prove to be beneficial for both the individual and the company. Organizations are becoming more aware of the needs of their employees’ needs; whether it be through health benefits, or allotted time to perform these simple tips we have discussed. Hopefully you and I, and your company of course, can agree that healthy employees make for healthy companies.