Working from home doesn’t mean we have to sit at a kitchen table or on the couch all day. But unfortunately, the shift to hybrid or full-time remote work has led many people to a more sedentary lifestyle. The early days of the pandemic fueled this behavior, as lockdowns further restricted our ability to be active.
As a recent US study noted, the pandemic has led to decreased exercise and increased food intake for employees working from home. Sedentary lifestyles are linked to adverse health consequences like higher all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease mortality,cancer risk, diabetes, hypertension and osteoporosis.
At LifeSpeak, we have always featured a broad range of expert-led education for physical health as a key part of our support for mental health. Over the years, the evidence indicating that exercise and physical health is good for our mental health has only continued to grow. A recent study led by University of Gothenburg researchers demonstrated moderate and strenuous exercise alleviated anxiety and chronic anxiety symptoms. Half the participants in the study had lived with anxiety for at least ten years, and most participants improved from “a baseline level of moderate to high anxiety to a low anxiety level after the 12-week program.” In another study led by a team at Yale University, participants who exercised three to five times a week reported a 43% decrease in poor mental health days each month.
This connection has most certainly been true for me. Exercise plays a big part in my life. Working out at the gym or getting outside for runs and hikes elevates my energy and helps keep it there. That way, I can feel my best and perform my best at work and in my personal life.
As the days get shorter and, in some cases, colder, outdoor activities like walking or running will be more difficult to perform. Despite easing restrictions, some people may feel uncomfortable returning to a gym or indoor fitness center.
Here are three tips from LifeSpeak experts that can help anyone establish a more active lifestyle regardless of where they work. Pass these onto your colleagues and employees to improve physical and mental wellbeing. I’ve incorporated them into my life and have found they work really well for me.
According to fitness expert Tom Toth in his LifeSpeak blog post, Winter Fitness: How to stick to a routine when it is cold and dreary, having a regular, daily schedule is the easiest way to stick to a fitness routine. Finding the time is where most people struggle, but when we work from home, we don’t have to work around a commute to the office. Besides, he says we only need about 20 minutes to get a great workout.
Tom says most people have three opportunities each day to work out: the morning, lunchtime and the evening. He says lunch is a great time to exercise when we work from home—if we use our time effectively, we can squeeze a 20 minute workout, a shower and a meal into a lunch hour.
But pick a time that works for you. Don’t fight your personality type and try to force an early morning workout if you aren’t a morning person—you won’t be able to sustain it long-term.
In his LifeSpeak video How to move more throughout your day, personal trainer and family therapist Tim Sitt lists three triggers we can leverage to exercise more.
The first is feeling: when we notice we are tired or feeling physical pain, we can decide to get up and stretch. The second is situation: is it time for a meeting or lunch? Just before either, we can take a moment to do 30 squats or 5 mindful breaths. And the third is schedule: we can pick three times throughout the day where we check in and ask how our body feels, and then act accordingly.
Our movement can be all kinds of things, like walking, stretching, or just standing. Standing up stimulates blood flow, increases muscle activity and decreases bone density loss.
In her LifeSpeak video Why strength train? fitness professional Shelly McDonald says sedentary adults lose anywhere from 3-5% muscle mass every decade. For women in menopause, that number doubles. Metabolism and bone density decreases, leaving bones more susceptible to cracks, breaks and osteoporosis. But Shelly says the good news is strength training reverses all that.
Strength training forms micro-tears in muscles that are then replenished with amino acids to build leaner, denser and stronger muscles. Over time, people who strength train build better endurance. Everyday activities get easier, like climbing the stairs, lifting objects or chasing kids.
Strength training also boosts confidence and self-esteem. It releases happy hormones, like endorphins, that help people cope with stress better, leading to deeper, more restful sleep.
While people are often intimidated by strength training, Shelly says it doesn’t take much to get stronger. Just training two days a week can make a big difference. A lot of strength training can be done from the comfort of home, with little or no equipment, on a person’s own time.
If you’re already a LifeSpeak client and your organization has selected these videos as part of their library simply access the platform to view them and even more fitness, mental health, and overall wellbeing content. Not a LifeSpeak client? Book a demo to learn more.
Want more fitness and wellness support for your organization?
LIFT session, a LifeSpeak company, is here to offer you and your people even more comprehensive fitness support. With LIFT, members of your organization can watch on-demand fitness videos, join live sessions, and even work 1-on-1 with a coach online on a wide range of activities including mindfulness, cardio, strength building, yoga, pre-natal fitness, Pilates and more. LIFT can even help you with a corporate fitness challenge. You can learn more about LIFT here.