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Get active at the office!

A little exercise during the workday can make a world of difference

A little exercise during the workday can make a world of difference
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Fitting 150 minutes into your work week

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 outside."

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 bonding experience."

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."

FYI

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 motion.

Wave: September / October 2011

About Wave

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.

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