Once upon a time – well, a generation or two ago – we were much more physically active. We walked to school, we played outside, we wandered the streets as children. Our parents used cars less to get from A to B, looked after their gardens, did more physical household chores, watched less TV, and weren’t sat in front of a computer screen for hours at a time.
The change to being more sedentary has been gradual but it has become prevalent, and it is not good for us.
Studies have shown that many people spend hours at a time just sitting in front of computers, in front of TVs, looking at phones and iPads, and in their cars. Our bodies do not respond well to this level of being static. They need physical activity to help keep our organs working properly, our muscles toned, and our digestive and immune systems effective. And our minds benefit from physical movement – when you move your body you move your mind.
Now, this is not the visit to the gym or dance class or swimming pool once or twice a week, although of course those are good for you and help to keep you healthy. I’m talking about regular physical movement during the day, in amongst your work and life occupations.
It has become quite popular to have some from of step counter – a smart watch or app on your phone – and that can be a great way to prompt yourself to move, as long as you spread it out throughout the day rather than cramming most of your target into one small part of your time.
And we need to stretch ourselves to relieve the tension in muscles held in the same position for a long time, give our eyes a break from staring at a screen, and give our minds a break from focussing on specifics.
As well as the benefits to our health, we will also gain other benefits.
We will probably directly interact with others more, which is part of building good relationships. We all know that going to talk about a work issue with a colleague is likely to sort it out more effectively than pinging emails back and forth. And just having a brief chat with someone makes more focussed interactions easier in the future.
And our level of attention on the task in hand drops dramatically after a maximum of 45 minutes, so moving away and taking a short break from it actually increases our productivity.
We can all find ways to move more:
- Take stairs rather than lifts
- Go and see work colleagues rather than mail them
- Make drinks for a few people and bring them into the office two at a time rather than on a tray
- Go outside for a little while at lunchtime
- Walk round the block when you get home
- Move your chair back and stretch every so often
- And if you need an excuse to move, pick up some papers and walk looking business-like – no-one will question you moving away from your desk!
If you already have built in regular movement in your day, know that this is good for your health and well-being and helps you to work smarter.
And if you tend to sit still for long periods, do start moving yourself a bit more – you will notice the benefits.
Di Kamp, Leadership Director of Meta