Get moving for better health

A physiotherapist's tips on adding an active aspect to your working day

Movement impacts us all

With this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week encouraging us all to be more active, we’re keen to highlight the role that movement can play in improving health and wellbeing, especially whilst at work.

Whatever your working day entails, frequent bursts of movement can boost your mood, improve your physical fitness and reduce your risk of illness or injury.

It’s easy to get into a rut of inactivity when we’re working, whether sitting at a desk, spending the day in a meeting room or carrying out repetitive tasks that restrict our range of movement. With many of us frequently working from home, inactivity can be a significant issue as we don’t even have to walk to the car or railway station.

Movement is vital for all kinds of reasons. It lifts your mood, which reduces the stress hormone cortisol, and in turn can improve sleep, reduce anxiety, fatigue and blood pressure, lower the heart rate and increase good cholesterol levels. It can also help prevent weight gain and bone density loss, maintain strength and improve blood flow. The risk of cardiovascular disease is significantly higher among those of us who sit for long periods so it’s really important to build movement into your day wherever you can.

- Alice Bowker, Senior MSK Physiotherapist at Ascenti
Man wearing a suit cycling to work

As a nation, we can do more

According to Sport England, 36% of adults in the UK don’t currently meet physical activity recommendations (at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity per week or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity per week or a combination of both)1.

 

Even though being active can reduce your risk of developing some heart and circulatory diseases by as much as 35%2.

 

If we’re honest, we know we need to do more:

  • Nearly half of Britons don’t think they walk enough3
  • Over half of us resolved to do more exercise in 20244 but our good intentions may have fallen by the wayside
  • We’re setting a poor example for the future, with fewer than half of children in the UK doing the recommended 60 minutes or more of sport and physical activity a day5

Here at Simplyhealth, we aren’t resting on our laurels; we’re determined to keep developing our workplace culture and prioritising physical and mental health for our entire workforce.

To understand more about movement, we sat down with Alice Bowker, a physiotherapist for Ascenti, to see how we can integrate activity into our day-to-day lives and make it an easy-to-achieve priority for everyone:

Person opening curtains to let sunshine in

Early morning boost


To get the blood flowing around your body and set you up for the day, setting the alarm just 15 minutes earlier gives you time to introduce a good stretch, a walk, a jog around the block or, perhaps best of all, a mood-boosting boogie to your favourite radio station before you start your usual daily routine.

Even household chores count


If you can’t get outside, you can still use those everyday tasks like vacuuming the house, cleaning the windows or washing the car as a chance to up your movement – with music or a podcast and a limited time slot, it might even turn the mundane into a more enjoyable challenge! 

Person holding smart watch on their wrist

Step monitoring


Counting your daily steps with a digital activity monitor is a useful way to measure and hopefully increase your movement. However, you’ll find it easier to reach your target by including lots of short bursts of movement throughout the day rather than trying, and possibly failing, to find time for a long walk or run. Monitoring your steps can also turn movement into a game – try to reach a specific number each day.

Walk the walk


Walking is one of the simplest and most effective types of exercise, and it can easily be slotted into your day: a dog walk before or after work, a quick walk around town in your lunchbreak or a power walk and a podcast while you’re waiting for the kids to finish their after-school activity. 

Two colleagues talking in an office

Walk the talk


If you’re using a tablet or phone to communicate for work, why not walk while you talk? One of the huge benefits of modern tech is that it has freed us up to work on the move, which means that in many situations, you absolutely can walk as you talk. 

The walking meeting


Instead of struggling to stay focused around a meeting table, especially during those afternoon slumps, introduce walking meetings – they can be far more creative, inspiring, mood-enhancing, and productive. A Stanford University study6 showed creative output can increase by as much as 60% when walking compared to sitting, even if it takes place inside rather than outdoors.

Two women looking at each other and walking amongst trees

Set reminders


To reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, weight gain and high cholesterol, studies show7 we need to avoid sitting for long periods. Taking ‘micro-breaks’ is sometimes easier said than done, so stick reminder notes on your desk, add something to your work calendar or set frequent alarms on your phone to remind yourself to get up and move around – schedule in more than you need to allow for some to be postponed if the moment isn’t right.

Work together


Agree with your colleagues that you’ll sometimes get up and go and speak to each other in person instead of making an internal call – feeling less isolated could make for happier workplace relations as well as helping towards your increased movement target. 

Birdseye view of woman outside on a yoga mat with weights

Movement tools


Depending on your working environment, you could keep a couple of hand weights, a yoga mat or an exercise band nearby to use for a few minutes at intervals throughout the day – perhaps even while waiting for the kettle to boil. I keep a yoga ball by my desk and swap it with my chair for a little while each day. The ball increases your pelvic tilt, encourages movement while seated and is great for improving your core strength. It’s important to learn how to use it effectively and safely without causing back pain8.


Whether you try one or all of these tips, getting more movement can help physically and mentally. The Mental Health Foundation has also shared its movement calendar, providing inspiration and ideas for getting up and about each day. What are you waiting for? 

Have a physiotherapist at your fingertips

If you're struggling to get moving because of aches and pains, our plans can help. You get access to digital muscle and joint pain assessments, discounted physio appointments, and money back towards physio, osteopathy, acupuncture and chiropractor treatments.