Recent virus-related events mean that a large chunk of the UK workforce have left their offices and commutes behind in favour of working from home. Some people have thrived upon this new reality, whilst others have struggled with the disruption to normality. On the one hand, the lockdown triggered a wave of solidarity; on the other, a widespread feeling of not being in control.
Pre-pandemic, 72% of Brits already admitted to feeling stressed out during their typical working week, leading to anxiety, tension and a lack of sleep . It’s likely that these feelings were amplified with the new stress of this unknown perpetrator. That said, 24% of people also agreed that exercise is a perfect stress buster that can help to reduce work-related tension – if anything, the lockdown gave us more time to try to get more active.
Walk away from your desk
We all know that being active is great for your health and wellbeing, but even if you exercise regularly, spending too much time sitting down can have some serious health risks.
The British Heart Foundation states that people who spend long periods of time sat down are more likely to develop diabetes, heart disease, depression, cancer and obesity. It also means your brain isn’t getting a well-deserved break – which means it probably won’t release any serotonin (your feel-good hormone) to help you cope during the day.
But, it can be difficult to get your steps in when the average office worker spends 75% of their waking hours sitting down. This is where fitness trackers are really useful, as they track your active minutes and encourage you to keep moving throughout the working day.
Set your smart watch, fitness tracker, smartphone or even your laptop to flag up movement reminders. It’s recommended that you get up and move away from your desk for a couple of minutes at least once every 30 minutes or so. Perhaps you could use this time to get a fresh glass of water - another great habit you can get into to improve your overall health.
Just keep moving!
Being ‘physically active’ doesn’t mean you have to hit the gym hard or train for a marathon. It can include any movement of your body that uses your muscles and expends energy. The sweet spot is 150 minutes (two and a half hours) of moderate physical exercise throughout the week – which is doable, even if you’re deskbound for the majority of your day.
You can always break up your active time - try standing at your desk, walking during your break, gardening on the sunny days or an indoor fitness video if it’s raining. Basically, any movement that reduces the amount of time spent sitting or lying down and gets your heart-rate up. A tracking tool like a Fitbit watch is a great way to measure how much you’re moving and keep you focused on improving your physical activity.
Exercise positively impacts mental health
The physical health benefits of exercise are well known, but it also significantly helps to improve your mental health and wellbeing. So much so, that the effects appear equal to meditation or relaxation. Exercise releases endorphins, which are hormones that make you feel better in yourself and give you an energy boost.
Working out helps to reduce stress and anxiety levels. It also makes you more resilient to all sources of stress, whether that’s work, family or pandemic-related. In fact, a study found that replacing 30 minutes of sedentary behaviour with 30 minutes of movement can reduce symptoms of depression by 5%. Light physical activity reduces symptoms by 13% and moderate-to-vigorous activity by 19%.
You can always be more active than you think
Fitness expert, James Stirling, is a big advocate of improving wellbeing by focusing on fitness. He explains that you can always be more active than you think. Here are some of his top tips for staying active while working from home:
Walk and talk (pace the room during a meeting or conference)
Set reminders to prompt movement away from your desk
Stretch at your desk and work the muscles that don't get used whilst you are sitting down as often as you can.
Keeping fit has always been important, but there’s an added bonus in that it can also help you to stay mentally strong. Which in turn, makes you better equipped to face daily obstacles. Think about how you can keep more active while continuing to work from home.
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