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How to stay active at work

Written by: CABA
Published on: 10 Dec 2018

The average person in the UK now spends the equivalent of 76 days each year sitting down. So it’s no surprise that around 39% of UK adults don’t meet the activity levels recommended by the NHS. 

According to the NHS guidelines we should do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, such as walking or cycling, each week. For many of us, a working week of 37, 40, 50 or even 60 hours involves most of that time sitting at a desk. Add in all kinds of travel and commuting and it’s easy to see how we can be spending 7 - 12 hours per day seated. 

A sedentary lifestyle poses a threat to our health and reduces our life expectancy. It increases our risk of diseases like cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis and heart disease. 

Being sedentary can also impact our mental health. Studies show that people who sit for more than 7 hours a day are more likely to feel depressed. Going to the gym for an hour after work will improve your health and fitness, but it doesn’t reduce the amount of time you spend sitting down during the day. We can use exercises to break up the time we spend sitting to help improve our physical health. 

6 Easy ways to be more active at work 

Here are 6 simple tips to help you get more active in the workplace. 

1. Get moving and stretching at your desk 

When you sit down for a long period your muscles can start to stiffen up. This can contribute to neck and back pain, weakened muscles and poor posture. Sitting down changes the angle of your hip joint which means that your hip muscles can become tight. Your core muscles are also less active when in a seated position. 

Make stretching at your desk a habit, even if it’s just for a minute or two. 

2. Get out for a walk at lunchtime 

Get away from your desk at lunchtime to improve both your physical and mental health. A walk will get your body moving, raise your heart rate and increase your step count. The average person in the UK only walks 3,000-4,000 steps per day, falling short of the recommended 10,000. Starting with a short lunchtime walk can help to build up your step count. 

3. Stand up when making phone calls 

Standing uses more muscles than sitting, and as an extra benefit it burns more calories too. Standing can improve your circulation and productivity, and reduce back pain. 

4. Take the stairs 

If you always use the lift or escalator, switch to using the stairs instead. Taking the stairs will raise your heart rate and help to strengthen your leg muscles. 

5. Move every hour 

It can be easy to sit in the same place for hours without noticing. Taking a walk around the office will get your joints and muscles moving, and give you a break from your screen. You can go back to your desk with a fresh perspective. 

6. Cycle or walk part of your commute 

If you take public transport to work, get off one stop earlier and walk the extra distance. Over the course of a week this can add up to a lot of more exercise. If you drive to work, park your car at the furthest end of the car park, so you walk further to the office. Or you could cycle to work to increase your daily exercise and miss the traffic.  

Little actions throughout the day have a cumulative effect on your activity levels. You don’t need to make any drastic changes to start getting active at work. If you add 15 minutes of exercise every day you would increase your activity levels by 1 hour and 45 minutes each week. Small changes can really start to add up. 

For more tips, recipes, and resources to help you promote your physical wellbeing, visit CABA's physical wellbeing microsite