Technology and innovation have brought many benefits to the workplace and our lifestyles in general. However the offshoot is we have become much more sedentary, sat around for longer periods at office desks. This is often extended when we leave the office and relax at home in front of the television or home computer screens. Since the arrival of broadband increasing numbers do not even need to leave the house at all and can sit in their home office and work remotely. Unfortunately for those of us for which this sounds very familiar humans are designed to move and not sit around for the large part of the day. This lack of movement can be detrimental to productivity, fitness and physical and mental well-being. It can increase the risk of more chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
However, once we have acknowledged this is a problem there are a range of ways in which it can be addressed. Companies are becoming more enlightened to health and fitness issues and the benefits to them of a healthy, happy and alert employee. From simple stretches through to desk treadmills employees can introduce more movement in to their working day to counter the sedentary nature of the office. First and foremost though they should address their posture when sat at a screen to help prevent back and neck issues. Even here occasionally standing up and stretching with arms raised is beneficial.
What are Desk Treadmills?
With a desk treadmill technology gets the chance to reverse the sedentary lifestyle it has helped create. It is a simple but clever concept, adding the most used gym exercising equipment to the workplace environment. These treadmills are not meant for running but are sometimes known as walking treadmills and are fitted with a desk to place your computer of choice on. Instead of sitting while you wade through and answer three hours worth of emails or enter copious amounts of data to a spreadsheet, you can gently walk. On average people walk at 3 miles per hour, but by setting the treadmill to just two miles per hour you ensure movement and exercise while not working up an uncomfortable sweat.
The Benefits of a Desk Treadmill
While using a desk treadmill will not necessarily get you up to prime marathon running fitness, this is not its purpose. These treadmills should not replace your regular exercise routine away from the office, but should complement it. Just being on your feet and adding some gentle walking in to the working day can benefit your all round health and fitness. Straight away you will burn calories and increase the blood flow through the body, which in turn decreases blood pressure, lowering the risk of conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. Other notable benefits include:
- By standing you will elongate your spine, reducing the stress which can build up over long periods of seated inactivity, especially if your posture is bad when sat.
- Exercise is good for the mind and can act as a stress buster. Work can be a stressful place, but regular exercise releases endorphins which reduce anxiety and help boost your mood.
- Even low impact exercise like a gentle walk is still good for maintaining strong and healthy bones.
- Research has shown employees using a desk treadmill increased their productivity by improving mental performance and increasing attention to detail levels.
- Creativity levels also improve as exercise stimulates the brain and allows you to focus more on the task at hand, even if it is a plethora of dull spreadsheets.
Overall there is a lot to be said for bringing one of the most popular elements of a gym in to the work place. This is an area where companies are becoming more enlightened and accepting. They recognise the potential benefits to the business of a fitter, mentally sharper employee who is not switching off by the early afternoon. Desk treadmills may take a little adjusting to as a concept for some in an office environment, but they can be used as part of an overall fitness strategy which is inclusive to all employees. The more employees who work out from their desk the more fun it can be. You can certainly feel a little self-conscious if you are the only one using a desk treadmill or exercising from your desk in other ways, so encouraging others to join in can create a positive team spirit for you all to feed off and be motivated from.
Although a desk treadmill is a good way of working out while working there are many other simple exercises which can be done from your desk to retain movement and flexibility.
Simple Stretches While at Your Desk
There are numerous simple stretches and exercises you can do while sat at or stood in front of your desk. They do not need to be done in one session as if you are in the gym, but periodically cross the day to ensure you are moving and retaining flexibility to off-set the sedentary nature of the job. A sample of these stretches include:
- Sit up straight in your chair and extend both arms above your head as if reaching for the sky. Hold for 10 seconds before further extending the left hand, then the right.
- Place your arms straight out wide and rotate your hands with thumbs pointing behind you. Pinch the shoulder blades by trying to move the hands further back behind you.
- Drop your head towards your shoulder and gently press down on it with your hand, holding for ten seconds. Switch and do the other shoulder.
- Frequently remember to shake and stretch out the wrists and hands to try and prevent carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Stand up from the desk with feet together and do 10 calf raises by simply easing yourself up from the toes.
- Improvise squats by standing up from your office chair and sitting back down, repeating 10 times.
- Stand up and place your hands on the desk in front of you and step back in order to perform 10 to 15 standing push-ups.
These are just a small sample of the many easy stretches and exercises which can be performed at your office desk. They hardly take up any work time, yet contribute effectively to maintaining movement and flexibility through the day. Of course if you have a little more room to spare you can get just a little more mobile:
- Incorporate lunges in to your day, perhaps when walking down a corridor. As you walk gently lower the knee of the back leg until it nearly touches the floor. If the corridor is long enough you can try doing 10 of these at a time.
- Take 60 seconds to run on the spot, shadow box or some pretend rope skipping.
- If your office has stairs, head to them 5 or 6 times a day, taking them two at a time when you feel capable.
Simple exercise in the office does not need any planning, just an awareness to make sure you do something across the day to offset the sedentary office job. In a busy office it may not always be or feel easy to do, but by explaining to fellow workers why you are suddenly doing calf raises you will make them aware of the importance and hopefully have them taking part too.
Work Exercise in to the Daily Routine
Exercise of course does not need to be something set aside from the normal day to day working activities. There are plenty of opportunities across the day from the commute to how you perform everyday office tasks where you can tweak your habits to aid your fitness levels.
Park further from the office or get off a couple of bus stops early to add some extra walking in to your day. Once at the office shun the elevator and head for the stairs. The longer you do this the easier it should become. Instead of emailing or phoning a co-worker in the same building walk over to see them. Similarly do not let an assistant constantly do the coffee run, go and fetch your own refreshments. These are all easy tweaks which do not take any planning but can have benefits over time. If you get the walking bug why not head out for a stroll during your lunch break instead of remaining sat at your desk or in the canteen.
We all recognise a sedentary lifestyle brings with it the increasing potential for serious health issues. We also often make excuses about our busy life not allowing us the time to do anything about it. Yet it is quite easy to sneak in some easy stretches and exercise across the working day. Desk treadmills are increasing in popularity too adding a new dimension to this issue. However you work out from your desk the physical and mental benefits will be felt by both you and your employer over time.