How to Promote Workplace Wellness
January 6, 2019 · 6 min read
Speakizi speaker and office yoga expert Lauren Coles shows you how to build a wellness program tailored to your office's needs.
Alia Bisat · January 6, 2019 · 5 min read
By now, we’ve all heard, and more than likely felt, how sitting for hours at a time day after day takes a toll on our bodies. In fact, the World Health Organization has listed physical inactivity as the fourth leading risk factor in global mortality, implying that movement is an essential element for our health. Some research even suggests that the only reason we have brains in the first place is so our bodies can produce adaptable and complex movements. Yet, the reality is, 86% of Americans sit at a desk as part of their job.
The good news is that it’s not all doom and gloom! A common misconception is that movement is synonymous with exercise. But in reality, you don’t always have to sweat or increase your heart rate to reap the benefits of movement. There are many things you can do throughout your workday to immediately impact your mood, cognitive health, hydration levels, aches and pains, and more.
Our calves are often referred to as our “second heart” because when we’re on our feet, they help pump deoxygenated blood back to our hearts. When we sit behind a desk all day, we aren’t utilizing our bodies to support our health.
Depending on your job, there are probably many objects in your work space like calculators, filing cabinets, or your desk phone that you use quite often. To add more movement to your day, reorganize your space and place these items far enough away from you that you have to get up to use them.
While crossing your office to use the stapler may seem like a small action, this simple tweak can actually boost your cardiovascular health.
My sister’s eye doctor gave her a 20/20/20 rule to boost her far-sighted vision. Every 20 minutes, stare at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This is a super useful rule for movement too. Every 20 minutes, walk a distance of 20 feet for 20 seconds. Getting up every 20 minutes may seem like a lot, but when you pair this action with re-organizing your workspace and getting up for bathroom, water, and coffee breaks, this is a totally doable goal.
Worried that getting up three times every hour is too distracting? Think about this: on average, Americans check their phones every 12 minutes, spending almost 1 minute each time they check it. And when we consider that countless studies have shown that an increase in movement improves concentration and memory, the 20/20/20 rule just might add focus to your work day rather than reduce it.
Fascia–the multi-layered web of connective tissue covering our muscles, bones, and organs–helps us move with ease and fluidity. The less we move, the more brittle our fascia becomes, causing stiffness, aches and pains. The more we move, the more fluid and hydrated it, and we, become.
A good way to remember to move is to place a yoga strap, massage ball or other prop on your desk. This can serve as a reminder to stretch or roll out your feet during your lunch break or in the few minutes before or after a meeting. It can also inspire you to move more creatively than you do by simply walking. Stretching, twisting, lifting your arms overhead, or massaging the tight spots in the body can make you feel more energized almost immediately.
A great stretch for people who sit at a desk all day can be done with a yoga strap. Grab the strap taut between your hands and lift your arms up overhead and all the way back behind you. This will relieve tension in the neck and shoulders. A few minutes of rolling a ball under your feet or against your upper back at a wall can also be super invigorating. This is why I actually give out massage balls for participants at all my workshops!
Sometimes we go for hours without taking a full, complete breath, but the power of a full breath should not be underestimated. And the best thing about breathing is that you can do it anywhere at any time.
When we’re under stress, we tend to take shallower breaths, often using our shoulders more than our ribcage to do the breathing work. Instead, pause every so often to breathe deeply. This simple action is a powerful tool for stretching the tissues in and around your ribcage and stimulating the movement along your spine, not to mention sending calming signals to your nervous system that can decrease stress hormones and anxiety levels.
Try this: sit with your back against your chair, close your eyes, and place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Take a slow, long inhale, feeling your torso expanding into your hands and expanding into the back of your chair at the same time. Take the same amount of time to exhale slowly out your mouth. Repeat 4 more times.
By taking a few simple actions each day, you can reap the total body rewards of increased movement.
To jump-start your office’s New Year wellness resolutions, check out Alia’s kick-ass yoga class on her Speakizi profile.
And to find out more about how Speakizi experiences can get your team moving while increasing focus and energy, visit speakizi.com.