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Changing habits at work – making it easier for staff to be active during the working day

Medical & health articles 17 Feb 2017
Young women in workplace stressed 600 352

Our love of technology often diverts us from being physically active. Instead of walking down the hall to chat to a colleague, we now just ping them an email.

It's estimated that nearly half of all Australian adults do not meet the minimum activity levels set by the Australian government. Yet physical inactivity is a major risk for the development of a wide range of chronic conditions such as cancer, type 2 diabetes, depression and heart disease.

As many of us spend long hours at work, the workplace is the perfect place to address inactivity.

If you are stuck behind a desk all day, you might wonder how it is possible to do your job but also be physically active. You are not alone. Time and money is being spent on exactly this question. Chronic diseases have become a public health concern and governments are investing in finding out how workers can be more active during their working day.

The trend for wearing activity monitors, such as Fitbits, is now commonplace. You may now often hear a colleague say, for instance, that they need to do 10,000 steps to reach a goal or beat a target.

Receiving a Fitbit when you join a company is now standard practice in some industries. So, what about other ways companies are encouraging workplace activity, such as standing desks or walking meetings? What's actually working? Can you be active during your work hours but also be productive?

All over Australia, companies are getting involved in getting their workforce active.

Here are some strategies to increase physical activity at work:

  • Lead from the top – introduce policies to encourage and make time for workplace activity, and get senior managers involved in promoting positive attitudes towards such activity
  • Have breaks in the day where staff can walk around the office a few times
  • Introduce walking meetings if numbers allow (Read a previous article on walking meetings)
  • Print and display signage such as 'use the stairs', 'walk to deliver message instead of email' 'standing meeting in progress', 'lunchtime walking group meets here', etc
  • 'Walk to work days' – allow flexi-hours
  • Print maps of local walks/ bike paths/ parkland with benches that can be used at lunchtime
  • Provide showers/changing facilities/ bike racks at work
  • Provide subsidised gym membership
  • Invest in onsite fitness such as yoga/Zumba/tai chi
  • Provide exercise bikes/ treadmill for lunchtime use in common areas
  • Invest in pedometers for staff and start a competition with prizes
  • Health awareness days (newsletter/ online/ lunch and learn/ cooking demos).

We'd love to hear what you are doing at your workplace to encourage a healthier environment – please get in touch via our Facebook page and tell us what's working in your work space.

Read more about physical activity and exercise.