Simple ways to be more active during your busy workday
My work and passion is focused on supporting adult Albertans in adopting a lifestyle that includes regular physical activity and limits sedentary behaviour time. The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines recommend engaging in 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity every week. That can seem like a lot when even finding 20 minutes can be difficult in a day surrounded by meetings, kids’ activities, commuting and time with family and friends. However, it is possible to make small changes in your routine that can help get you living a more active life.
I understand that starting and maintaining a lifestyle that includes movement can be challenging. Depending on your lifestyle, many of us spend a good chunk of time sitting – it could be at the office, relaxing on the couch watching your favourite show, commuting by car running errands or going to and from work. These type of activities are known as sedentary behaviours, meaning any activity in a seating or reclined position during your awake time that does not require physical exertion beyond resting levels. Although your body needs time to relax, it is important to find balance with being physically active.
The workplace setting is where Albertans spend a large amount of their time, and often contributes to sedentary behaviour. Incorporating physical activity into your workday can be as simple as brisk walking around your workplace at lunch, or hopping on a bicycle and pedaling through the park – any activity that increases your heart rate in 10 minute bouts or more.
Regularly meeting the physical activity guidelines and reducing time spent sitting has great health benefits, including reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and some forms of cancer. Check out some simple steps below on how you can make physical activity a part of your regular routine at work.
Step 1: Take a look at your activity throughout your workday.
Track your workday activity from the time you leave home until the time you return. Consider your activity during your commute, workday and breaks.
i) Calculate the number of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity minutes you have in your work week.
ii) Do you spend prolonged periods of time sitting? For how long? Do you break up your sitting time with movement, standing or stretching?
Step 2: Identify opportunities to move more throughout your workday.
Now that you know how active you are during your workday, look for occasions to add movement throughout the day. There are parts of your workday that may be out of your control but there are still several ways to incorporate physical activity and break-up large bouts of sitting.
Try adding physical activity in 10 minute bouts or more as part of your commute to and from work, during your work breaks or as part of your work practice. For example, biking, walking or taking public transit when commuting to work, or even scheduling a fitness class or walk to complete errands during your lunch break.
You can also break-up your sedentary time. Try taking a standing or moving micro break every 30 to 60 minutes. For example, make a habit of standing during online meetings or phone calls, or set a calendar reminder to standup on the hour and stretch. If you spend more than 10 consecutive minutes standing, reposition your posture regularly. I also encourage you to try walking meetings, they are fun and healthy!
Step 3: Experiment. Find out what works for you.
Try different ways to move more. Experiment with different options, find out what works and what doesn’t. Once you find something you enjoy, stick with it! As circumstances change, you will need to adjust your approach (e.g. summer versus winter).
Step 4: Invite others to join in on the fun!
Invite others to join you on this journey. Being physically active is more fun with others. Challenge your colleagues to take a micro break by standing, moving or stretching every hour or joining you for a walk.
No matter what your situation, I encourage you to take a look at your movement throughout your work day and explore how you can move more. Try it out, your body will thank you!
Join the conversation, and be inspired to think about your wellness!
Share what balance looks like to you, using #AHSwhatsyourbalance on social media. Or visit www.ahs.ca/whatsyourbalance to download the Wellness Scorecard to get started on your path to finding balance.
Disclaimer: Please note the ‘What’s your balance?’ blog posts are views of the authors only, and should not be considered as formal advice and instruction. Readers should consult with appropriate health professionals or dial 811 for Health Link on any matter related to their health and wellbeing.