With 35.1% of employees sleeping for less than 7 hours per night, it isn’t surprising that 33.3% of employees also have insufficient levels of physical activity (Vitality, 2019). RAND Europe (2019) found that the world’s GDP would increase by more than £80bn per year until 2050 if people either added an extra 15 minutes of walking into their daily routine, slowly jogged for 1 kilometer per day or walked an extra 1.5k steps per day.
This doesn’t sound like much, but it’s easier said than done. Working from home, it’s too tempting for your daily physical activity to revolve around walking between the kitchen, bathroom and workspace. Working from the office, lengthy commutes and early start and finish times makes it seem impossible to schedule any sort of workout into the day. Getting up at 5.30am to head to the gym doesn’t sound horrendous if you’re making it to bed by 10pm the night before. But, realistically, after household chores and cooking, you may not find the time to relax until 9 or 10pm before restarting the whole process the following morning. It's hard to find the right balance to avoid burnout.
There are however, little opportunities you can take to increase your movement around your work schedule, if waking up that hour earlier just isn't a long-term solution:
- Take your FULL lunch break. Often, we choose to sit at our desks during lunch and it’s too easy to be tempted to respond to emails or answer calls. This isn’t healthy. Use this time to refuel your body with a nutritious lunch, before heading outside for a brisk walk. 15 minutes around the block with your headphones in will work wonders.
- Whether you’re working from the office or home, get some errands completed at lunch. Walking to pick-up the weekly food shop or popping to the post office is a great way to get out and about and get your steps in. This also saves you time in the evening.
- Instead of emailing your colleagues, go for a walk around the building and talk to them face-to-face (if your schedule permits). Take the stairs.
- Make sure that you’re tracking your steps. This will become a great motivation tool – set goals to increase your physical activity on a weekly basis.
- If you are still struggling to get enough exercise into your day, approach your employer and see if they’d be open to flexi-time. This means you won’t have to squeeze the gym in at 5.30am before work and you’ll be more productive throughout the day – it’s a win-win.
As we can see from the RAND Europe’s report, there are far-reaching benefits of employees having healthy and active lifestyles. This benefits both parties and there are many opportunities for employers to make increased physical activity more accessible.