[Photo credit: MilitaryHealth]
It’s commonly said that sitting is the new smoking. The private health fund, Medibank Private, recently published a fact sheet on sedentary behaviours. It stated that employees in certain industries were spending up to 80% of their work day sitting. In addition, the majority of these employees spent most of their time outside of work sitting as well. People who sit for long periods of time have a higher incidence of back pain and adverse health risks.
I recently changed the way I structure my day and week to optimise my productivity and I review that each fortnight. I had so many ideas for things I wanted to accomplish and it seemed that there was never enough time to exercise. Like many others, I got hung up on what time for exercise actually meant. I believed I needed thirty to sixty minutes to train each day. However, very rarely did I achieve that. Between all my grand ideas, day-to-day responsibilities, work obligations, voluntary commitments, time with my kids and time to simply relax, I regularly missed out on training as I knew it.
I came across a productivity term known as block and tackling. It means to block off time in your schedule for a particular task and to tackle that task with 100% focus. It’s done wonders for my productivity and thus, my overall happiness. The way I like to do it is to block and tackle in two hour blocks. I spend one and a half hours working on a task and take a thirty minute break. That break is scheduled for movement, socialisation and rest.
Research shows that the brain needs a minimum of twenty minutes to recover and return to a resting state following high-level thinking and decision making. This is the reasoning behind taking thirty minutes as opposed to fifteen. Inside that thirty minutes, I take time out to relax, let my mind wonder, and chat with people. It means I have to be disciplined during the one and a half hour work time or else it doesn’t work. Lack of discipline in those one and a half hour work times can easily derail the rest of my day.
I’ve been managing a project for the Northern Territory Institute of Sport called Move More Learn More. The aim of the project is to get children moving more throughout the day and to teach them the fundamentals of how to move proficiently. I’ve been trialling this same system with my day. I allocate ten minutes of my thirty minute break to practice some physical movement. If I do this at the start of the thirty minutes, the rest of the break time is more enjoyable, relaxing, and I’m much more productive and enthusiastic when I get into my next block to tackle.
Exercise for an hour at the end of a long day sitting at a desk is great. But being active all throughout the day is even better.
Schedule regular break times to participate in some form of movement. It might be some bodyweight strength exercises, stretching, or a short jog. The less you have change, the better. For example, you’re only exercising for a short period of time so if you have to get changed or you come back covered in sweat, you defeat the purpose. Find an exercise you can easily do without much transition into or out of it.
Tips for Moving Around More at Work
- Block and tackle your time. I like to use two hour blocks but you can use whatever time suits your style and your circumstances. Trial a one hour block, one and a half hour block or even a three hour block. It’s all about getting you to move more so do what works for you and your situation.
- Set an alarm for every hour. Set an alarm to go off at the top of every hour from the start of your work day to the end. As soon as the alarm goes off, spend two to five minutes doing some physical activity. This is really effective as it creates much more regular movement. However, it can be a hassle if you’re deep in a task or right in the middle of a flow state. If you commit to regularity, you can accept missing one or two hours but if that becomes a theme, look at a new strategy. You’ll need to be disciplined for this to work and you’ll have to become classically conditioned to exercise every time your alarm goes off.
- Take walking meetings. Walking meetings have become very popular. Many desk-bound workers are ditching the board room for a walk and talk. It’s not always possible but when a meeting requires only a conversation or perusing over a small number of documents, this is a great way to get out and move around.
- When someone calls you, walk and talk. If you’re on a cordless landline or mobile phone, take the opportunity to get up and move around while you talk. If you work on a computer, you have to sit or stand at the desk. You don’t have to sit or stand still to talk though. Take the opportunity to move around while you’re talking on the phone.
- Get a stand up desk. This isn’t always possible and you may be confined to what your employer makes available. There’s also been some controversy about whether stand up desks are actually any better than sitting. The short answer is, yes they are. The argument against stand up desks is that you’re still stationary. The real problem is with lack of movement. If you stand up and stand still, you’re not much more active than if you sit. However, you’re much more likely to move around more while you’re standing. Put on some good music and move your feet. If you can’t concentrate with music on, step from side to side and be mindful of moving around.
At the end of the day, you must make the choice. These ideas are great, but unless you actually want to move more, they are nothing but great ideas. You have to actually want to be more active and see that working your muscles and generating blood flow will assist you in becoming more productive. Look for opportunities to move more throughout the day.
We all have a choice to move more. When you’re presented with the choice of taking the stairs or the escalator (or the lift), choose the stairs. You don’t have to take the stairs every time but if you take the stairs regularly, you can feel good about taking the alternative every now and again.
The simple behaviour of sitting has become a contributing factor in many lifestyle diseases. Sitting is so common, and choric sitting attributes to so many lifestyle diseases, that it’s now considered as unhealthy as smoking. Schedule short movement breaks throughout the day and actively seek opportunities for inadvertent exercise.
What could you do to move around more at work?
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