Get active at the office!
A little exercise during the workday can make a world of difference
BY AMY TIBBS
Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, September / October 2011
If you're reading this at work, take a moment and stretch your arms into the
air. Or release that computer mouse and do a couple
of wrist rotations. Your body will thank you for it.
Sitting at a desk is somewhat new for me. I have never had to worry about
finding the time to exercise. Until now, exercising has always been my job.
Now I'm in a position you may find familiar: working Monday to Friday, from
nine to five, with evenings that are jam-packed with commitments.
Even after a few months, I can already feel the effects of sitting at a desk for
long periods of time. My posture slowly deteriorates as the day goes by, my
muscles feel tighter, and I feel less energetic.
My new situation has forced me to be creative and find ways to integrate
exercise into my regular workday, by turning my coffee breaks or lunch
hour into mini-workout sessions. By combining three 10-minute activity
breaks during my workday, every day, I can meet the weekly 150 minutes of
moderate to vigorous aerobic activity recommended by the Canadian Society
for Exercise Physiology and the Public Health Agency of Canada.
A workday workout might involve taking a brisk walk with my colleagues
or turning an empty office or boardroom into a temporary gym or yoga studio
over my lunch hour.
These mini workplace workouts can make a difference to your health, too.
Research shows that completing three brisk 10-minute walking sessions a day
is effective in reducing blood pressure. Taking activity breaks also reduces
stress, increases productivity and makes us more effective at our job.
Many Winnipeggers are finding ways to include activity in their workday.
Cassandra Siemens, an accountant for Manitoba Hydro International, can
often be found spending her lunch hour at a nearby gym. She knows that
working out will give her a stronger heart and lower blood pressure.
But there are times when she can't get out for lunch, because accountants
often work long hours. "During month end, the gym is not feasible, so I try to
take short, fun breaks just to get up and get moving. It wouldn't be unusual
to see me shooting hoops or playing a quick game of pick-up street hockey
Another person who gets active at lunch is Marie Nedohin, an
administrative assistant. She's part of a group of three friends who use urban
walking poles to increase the intensity of their walks. As they go, they talk
about how walking gives them increased energy, improves their attitude and
makes them happier people.
Walking poles "really work a lot more muscles than a regular walk
would," says Nedohin. "It goes by so fast that you don't even realize
that you've just spent 45 minutes working out."
Exercising as a group promotes camaraderie within the
workplace. "It gives you an opportunity to learn about your coworkers
on a more personal level," says Nedohin. "It's a real
Val Sylvestre, who goes urban poling with Nedohin,
also takes advantage of a lunch-time yoga class. "I try
to do a variety of different activities because it keeps
the boredom away," says Sylvestre. Doing different
activities "helps to keep me in good physical
condition. You use different muscle groups with
each different activity."
If you want to motivate yourself and others to be active during the workday, consider becoming a wellness champion by co-ordinating a walking challenge, such as the Walk for Wellness Challenge. The challenge uses pedometers, and is designed so people of all abilities can participate. For information on how to get started, visit walkforwellnesschallenge.ca.
For additional tools, resources and supports to activate your workplace, consider becoming a "workplace in motion."
If you are looking for ideas and information on how to incorporate physical
activity into your workday and beyond, visit Winnipeg in motion or call 940-3648.
Amy Tibbs is a co-ordinator with Winnipeg in
Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.
Read the Sept. / Oct. 2011 issue of Wave