Healthy Workplace Month: Get Active!October 4, 2018
Have you heard the expression “sitting is the new smoking”? Even if you haven’t, it seems the risks of a sedentary lifestyle are quickly becoming common knowledge. We are frequently warned by doctors, experts, and the publicized results of medical studies: not moving enough can have detrimental effects on our health.
A recent study found that sitting for excessively long periods of time is a risk factor for early death – even if you exercise regularly! In fact, the negative effects of prolonged sitting were not influenced by age, sex, race, body mass index, or exercise regimen.
Those of us who work at a computer all day need to make a conscious effort to break up periods of sitting with periods of activity. Experts recommend taking a “movement break” every 30 minutes or so, as the study showed people who sit for less than 30 minutes at a time had the lowest risk of death
Even if your job doesn’t entail sitting at a desk for 8 hours straight, there are compelling reasons to add more movement to your day. There are a number of short-term and long-term benefits to physical activity, including:
- Weight loss or management
- Improved blood sugar control
- Lower blood pressure
- Stronger bones and muscles
- Reduced risk of complications from diabetes
- Decreased stress and anxiety
- Improved relaxation and sleep
Organizing some kind of group physical activity at work also yields a great side benefit: team building! Group activities can help strengthen bonds between your team members, improving collaboration and communication.
At Modu-Loc depots across the country, employees are finding ways to get active together. To help you get started with your own physical activity initiatives, we’re sharing a few of their ideas. Some of these examples are employee-led initiatives, and many are easy (and free) to implement!
Earlier this year, our Kelowna Finance & Admin team started coordinating regular group walks to encourage some physical activity during the day. As one employee put it, “We started our walks simply because we know how important it is to get up and move”.
Three times a day, team members go for a 6-minute walk around the block. If time permits, they’ll take a slightly longer route that rewards them with a pretty great view. Just check out this photo!
Of course, the office can’t be left completely unattended, so our Kelowna employees take turns going for walks. To decide who goes on which walk, team members draw names out of a hat. If it’s an especially busy day, it may simply depend on who is available at the time. This way, all office employees are included in at least one walk each day.
This is probably the easiest and least expensive way to add a little movement to your day. As an alternative, try organizing “flash walks”. Do this by setting an alarm to remind you and your team to get up and do a lap around the office every 30 minutes. Most fitness trackers also have built-in reminders to encourage movement every hour.
Team Step Challenges
If regular group strolls are too tame for you, try organizing a team step challenge. The idea is that team members track their daily steps and try to reach some kind of step-based team goal.
There is a myriad of websites that take all of the hard work out of planning something like this. Most are app-based and can integrate with pedometers or fitness trackers to help automate the process. Being able to see a leaderboard and work towards a fun goal (like outrunning zombies!) can really encourage employees to get more active.
We’re big on organized sports here at Modu-Loc. It’s not uncommon to see a game of ball hockey break out at one of our summer barbecues. Employees play together on extracurricular sports teams, and in some cases have even started company-sponsored teams.
Team sports are a great way to get physically active, as you’re having so much fun that it sometimes doesn’t even feel like exercise. They’re also a great opportunity for improving relationships between coworkers.
Consider buying a hockey net and some sticks or even just a basketball net and a ball for your yard (if you’re lucky enough to have outdoor space). Alternatively, try enlisting a group of employees to join a local sports league so that they can enjoy regular activity.
Modu-Loc’s Sponsorship Fund offers financial assistance to employees looking to join or start sports teams. Employees must submit a formal application to receive funding, and each application is reviewed by a staff committee. This is a great way to help employees get active and forge stronger bonds with their peers.
If you can’t find a group to commit to a regular activity, try organizing a one-time outing instead. For example, try dodge ball or archery tag like our Toronto crews did, or paintball like our Quebec City team. In fact, our Quebec City, Montreal, and Ottawa depots organize a physical activity for every holiday party…from hockey to bubble soccer!
Remember the good old days, when your school forced you to go outside and be active at regular intervals? It’s time to bring back recess!
Like flash walks, having a regularly scheduled recess can act as a reminder to step away from your desk and be physically active. Again, having a basketball or hockey net on the property will give your employees something physical to do during breaks. Our Calgary depot has found that throwing a ball around is a great way to defuse tension and reduce stress.
During our 2018 National Meeting in San Diego, we organized a team-based scavenger hunt for our attendees. Our meeting facilitator set up some tablets with an app that listed specific tasks for our teams. The app required video or photo evidence of these tasks, which included things like getting a group of strangers to dance with you. Our facilitator then reviewed the photos and videos for scoring purposes. If the task was deemed to be completed, points were awarded.
Naturally, the team with the most points won a prize!
The scavenger hunt was a huge hit with our attendees. We formed teams consisting of employees from different departments and geographic regions to help facilitate networking. As a bonus, the scavenger hunt had our teams running all over the city to complete their tasks – so it actually became a physical activity!
There are lots of apps and websites available to help you organize your own scavenger hunt…but all you really need is a list of physical tasks to complete or items to retrieve, and a way to score them all.
This is not likely to be a recurring activity for your team, given the time commitment. However, organizing a scavenger hunt once in a while is a fun (and unusual!) way to add a little exercise to your day.
As you can see, there is no shortage of ways to help your team members become a little more active during the work day. Many of these ideas were proposed and implemented by our employees, and some cost nothing at all. As an employer, sometimes all you need to do is empower your employees to start and manage their own physical wellness initiative. You’ll be taking an important first step towards creating a healthy and happy workplace.
This blog post is part of our series for Healthy Workplace Month. If you missed the first post, you can find it here. You can also check out our next post, which focuses on healthy eating at work. For more information about Healthy Workplace Month, please visit healthyworkplacemonth.ca.
We’re here to answer any questions you may have.