The work benefits of being more physically active -
How to subsequently integrate more activity into your working day.
Did you spend most of 2020 thinking about being more active, but struggled to start or to sustain healthy activity levels?
Did you find that your work-life balance turned into more of a work-life blend?
Did you feel that it was harder to be productive and engaged whilst working?
If you answered yes to any of the questions, then read on. This short blog will explain how being more physically active can make you more productive as well as improve your physical and mental health. It will also inform you how to SUSTAINABLY improve your levels of physical activity, rather than starting yet another New Year’s resolution that will end in February.
Last year, I ran virtual workshops on various workplace wellbeing topics with major organisations across the world, polling hundreds of employees about their wellbeing and physical activity levels. It may not come as a surprise that some found it more difficult to integrate physical activity into their lives last year. Yet for others, it was easier.
Clearly everyone has different barriers and enablers to physical activity, as well as other areas of wellbeing such as dealing with anxiety and stress. Therefore, we all need to have different wellbeing action plans and routines to match our unique barriers, enablers and reasons for being active. (The science also backs this individualised approach - look into the transtheoretical model of behaviour change for more info HERE).
There are so many reasons to integrate physical activity into our lives. If any of you reading this have been active recently, I’m sure you’ve felt some of the benefits. Perhaps you’ve found yourself less stressed, more energised and productive at work, or maybe just generally better physically? Sport England’s October 2020 Active Lives Survey results show how these physical and mental benefits have been felt across the UK even throughout the COVID-19 lockdowns.
Let’s dive deeper into the work benefits.
As mentioned, improving our levels of physical activity leads to mental and physical health benefits. Think back to the last time you were physically active. How did you feel when working later that day, or even the next? Were you more energised? Were you thinking more clearly? Did you get more done in a shorter amount of time than usual?
Throughout the interactive Workplace Movement virtual training sessions that we ran last year for employees from companies including PwC and NHS, as well as representatives from several local councils, many attendees shared that they feel more productive, engaged and even perform better at work after they are active.
A simple 20 minute walk during your lunch break can help you beat that daily afternoon slump, but even a 5 minute walk is better than nothing!
Other work benefits include improved teamwork, self-esteem, confidence, mood, sense of wellbeing, concentration and focus.
On top of the mental and physical health benefits that come from the miracle cure that is physical activity, I hope that the many work benefits add yet another reason to want to sustainably integrate physical activity into your life.
Top tips on being more active
● It’s that time of the year where people start implementing their New Year’s resolutions. Often, we start the year very motivated to become physically active and go from doing nothing to trying to fit in 5-7 activity sessions per week. However, my first tip is to start with small and realistic (read: sustainable) goals which are more likely to LAST over time, while also showing immediate benefits. You can start below the official recommendation (150 mins per week of moderate to vigorous intensity exercise) and slowly work your way up over time. It’s no good only hitting the recommended amounts for a few times a year!
● Find something you enjoy! If you don’t like running, don’t run! There are 1000s of free online videos of HIIT classes, dance classes, musical workouts, yoga, pilates and more. Use your local Active Partnerships, if you live in England, for more info on any local opportunities that you can access as well as aps such as the NHS One You. The Workplace Movement Resource Library signposts to many opportunities as well.
● Get outside if you can! Especially during winter - exposure to daylight will help reduce the impact of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) while also providing a welcome change of scenery from the inside of your house. Read this article from UK Active about other ways to reduce the impacts of SAD whilst the sun’s still setting early.
● Be active when you would have commuted, when you are working from home. If you currently have to commute or will start in the new year, try and make some or all of the commute active, perhaps by cycling, wheeling or walking as much as you can during the journey.
● Walking during calls — around your house, in your flat, or outside — are an easy way to get your steps in!
● Block out time for physical activity time in your diary… and stick to your schedule!
● You can also use Workplace Movement to support yourself and help your workplace become more active and less sedentary.
Workplace Movement, a platform run by Active Partnerships in partnership with Sport England - as seen in their Jan 2021 Active Employees Toolkit - can help you sustainably improve your physical activity levels and create a culture at your organisations that enables the same, organisation-wide. CLICK HERE or contact Nicki Couzens or Khalil Rener for more details.
Nicki Couzens – Business Support and Communications: firstname.lastname@example.org
Khalil Rener - Workplace Movement Manager: email@example.com
About the Author:
Khalil Rener graduated from Loughborough University with a BSc Hons in Sport and Exercise Science and an MSc in Sport Management, focusing his research on workplace physical activity. He has over 10 years of coaching and wellbeing consulting experience in different contexts. He is the Workplace Movement Manager at the Active Partnership National Team as well as the Founder and Director of Rener Wellbeing. Rener Wellbeing is a workplace wellbeing consultancy working with global corporates, NGOs, schools and startups across different industries - focusing on sustainably improving mental health, physical activity, sleep and nutrition across the board.
Edited by Zaki Gulumani