Set Yourself Up for the Working Day: Exercising and Mental Health

‘Deskercise’ your way to ‘WFH’ success with exercises that you can do without leaving your home – or your desk!

11 Jun 2020

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The arrival of a global pandemic has meant waving goodbye to offices, commutes and well-honed routines in order to camp out safely at home. But the suspension of normality that this lockdown has triggered can throw schedules out of whack and bring an unpleasant feeling of being out of control.

In fact, pre-Covid-19, 72% of Brits already admitted to feeling stressed out during the typical working week, leading to anxiety, tension and a lack of sleep[1]. Combine this with the stress of the unknown, and these feelings may well have been amplified. That said, 24% of people also agreed that exercise is a perfect stress and anxiety buster that can help to reduce work-related tension, suggesting it may be one solution to maintaining good mental health throughout this period.

We’ve worked with Fitbit to find out why being more physically active helps you to become mentally stronger and better prepared to tackle whatever the working day throws at you.

The dangers of the desk

It’s no secret that being active is good for your health, but even if you exercise regularly, spending too much time sitting down can have some serious health risks.

The British Heart Foundation states that people who spend extended periods of time seated (aka sedentary behaviour) have higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, depression, cancer and obesity. It also means your brain isn’t getting a break or releasing feel-good hormones to help you cope during the day.

But, it can be difficult to get your steps in when the average office worker spends 75% of their waking hours sitting down[2]. This is where fitness trackers, such as the Fitbit Charge 4 are really useful, as they track your active minutes and encourage you to keep moving while working from home.

Your daily dose of movement

Being physically active doesn’t mean you have to pump iron or run a marathon (unless you want to). It can also include any movement of your body that uses your muscles and expends energy. The sweet spot is 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity throughout the week[3] – which is doable, even if you’re at your desk for eight hours per day. The new Fitbit Charge 4 call these ‘Active Zone Minutes’, which it can track as well as your standard step count. So, while steps are still important, it’s often hard to squeeze in 10,000 of them while working from home.

You can always break your time into parts, like standing at your desk, walking during your break, gardening or a fitness video. Basically, any movement that reduces the amount of time spent sitting or lying down[4] and gets your heart-rate up. A tracking tool like a Fitbit watch is the perfect way to measure how much you’re moving and to gauge how you can improve your physical activity.

Exercise is good for your brain

The physical health benefits of exercise are well known but it also helps to improve your mental health. So much so, that the effects appear equal to meditation or relaxation[5]. This is because exercise releases endorphins, which are feel-good hormones that make you feel better in yourself and give you more energy to tackle the challenges of the day[6].

A good workout also helps to reduce stress and anxiety levels, which can increase in uncertain times where factors are out of our control. It also makes you more resilient to all forms of stressors, whether they be work, family or pandemic-related. In fact, a study found that replacing 30 minutes of sedentary behaviour with 30 minutes of movement can reduce symptoms of depression by 5%. Light physical activity reduces symptoms by 13% and moderate-to-vigorous activity by 19%[7], meaning a good work out makes you more resilient to whatever the day throws at you.

Take the work out of workout

Celebrity fitness expert James Stirling, also known as the London Fitness Guy, is a big advocate of improving wellbeing with fitness. He explains that you can always be more active to get those stress-reducing chemicals. Here are some of his top tips for staying active while working from home:

  • Walk while you talk (pace the room during a meeting or conference)
  • Set reminders and alarms on your phone or use your Fitbit tracker to prompt movement away from the desk.
  • Frequently stretch at your desk and work the muscles that don't get used whilst you are sitting down.
  • Go for a walk or a run during your free time.

 

Keeping fit has always been important but in times of change and uncertainty, it can also help you to stay mentally strong, making you better equipped to face daily obstacles. The new Fitbit is perfect for tracking your movements and heart rate while working from home, meaning you can stay on top of your goals.

 

[1] https://www.axa.co.uk/about/inside-axa/stress-index/

[2] https://www.openaccessgovernment.org/office-workers-sitting-down/71612/

[3] https://www.who.int/news-room/campaigns/connecting-the-world-to-combat-coronavirus/healthyathome/healthyathome---physical-activity

[4] https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/

[5] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10739267/

[6] https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/physical-activity-and-your-mental-health/about-physical-activity/

 

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