As you may or may not know, I have been working in corporate fitness for over 4 years now. I started out as the part-time fitness specialist in the gym at 125 High Street, which was a building that housed many different companies, the biggest one being PWC. From there, I became the fitness specialist at State Street Bank’s gym in their South Boston/Fort Point location. About a year ago, I was promoted to general manager. Even when I was in college, I knew that I wanted to work in corporate fitness. Being able to provide employees of a company with ways to stay fit and healthy, while providing health and wellness education, was exactly what I wanted to do.
May is Global Employee Health and Fitness Month! This initiative is a global observance of health and wellness in the workplace, which works to promote the benefits of a healthy lifestyle to employers and their employees. Ideally, every CEO should recognize physical activity as an important factor in overall employee health and performance in the workplace.
Healthy Employees = Happy Employees
There have been many studies done that show the benefits of having some sort of fitness or wellness program in place for employees (check out this article, that talks about some of those studies). The benefits include:
- Healthier employees = less missed work due to sick time, doctor’s visits, etc = less money spent on healthcare costs for the company
- Happier and more engaged employees
- Increased productivity in the workplace
- Better retention of employees (why would they want to leave a company with such great health and fitness perks?!)
- Reduced stress among employees
If you work for a company that encourages health and fitness, and even offers some sort of wellness program, then consider yourself lucky!! Unfortunately, not all companies have jumped on the worksite wellness train just yet. Many do not offer any sort of wellness program, let alone a gym within the building. This is what needs to change over the next few years.
The Risks of Being a “Cubicle Monkey”
As I’m sure you know already, sitting at a desk in front of a computer all day is one of the worst things for your health. Sitting takes a toll on your body, and can cause things like:
- Compromised posture: sitting causes the pelvis to rotate backward and puts pressure on the lumbar discs. This position forces the head forward and causes the shoulders to curve to compensate for weight transfer
- Back and Spine Injuries: prolonged, static loading of the tissues over time puts pressure on the low back and stress on the surrounding muscles and joints
- Chronic Pain: inadequate sitting postures, associated with long periods of sitting at a desk, provoke excessive pressure on the lower back. These somatic pains can become the symptoms of chronic disease
- Obesity: sitting at a desk reduces energy expenditure because the body’s major muscle groups aren’t being utilized. This results in calorie burning being minimized. Over time, this can lead to weight gain and eventually, obesity
No Program? No Problem!
What if your company doesn’t offer any sort of wellness program? Are you doomed to die in your cubicle, with the phone buzzing and email after email coming through? Of course not! It’s easy to take matters into your own hands and create your own wellness program. There are a ton of ways to exercise or stretch without ever leaving your desk. Your boss doesn’t even have to know that you’re improving your health on the clock!
Desk Exercises (click here for videos)
- Incline Push-ups: using your desk as support, bang out 10 push-ups every hour. That’s 80 push-ups a day, if you work a typical 8-hour day!
- Standing Alternating Lunges: Stand up, and do 10 alternating lunges per leg. You don’t even have to leave your desk area!
- Chair Squats: use your desk chair to bang out 10 squats. Squat down to the seat, then stand back up.
- Chair Dips: using your chair again, do dips off the edge to work those triceps. Note: be careful if your chair is on wheels!!
- Seated Knee Lifts: work that core by doing knee lifts while seated in your chair. This one is great if you’re stuck on a long conference call!
- Seated Leg Lifts: another great core exercise, do straight leg lifts instead of bent knee lifts. Even better? Alternate the two!
Desk Stretches (click here for videos)
- Standing Toe Touches: reach up to the sky, then swoop down and touch your toes. Take some deep breaths while you hang there! This one is stretching the hamstrings, which can get super tight during long periods of sitting
- 360 Degree Rotations: avoid neck pain by doing 360 degree rotations with the head. Make sure you move carefully and slowly around the circle, and avoid crunching the neck backwards
- Overhead Triceps Stretch: gonna need to stretch the triceps after doing all those dips! Bend on arm back behind your head, and gently use the other to pull the elbow in towards the head. Nice and easy with this one
- Chest Stretch: avoid that dreaded hunchback look that comes from sitting at a computer all day. Clasp the hands together behind the back, and reach down, allowing the head to look up and chest to puff out
- Standing Quad Stretch: Holding onto your chair, bend one leg back towards the butt and grab your foot (if you can!). Hold here for about 20 seconds.
- Chair Hamstring Stretch: another one for the hamstrings, place one foot on your chair, leg straight. Reach for that toe, keeping the leg as straight as possible.
Try to get up from your desk at least once an hour. Take a lap around your floor, go to the bathroom, or even take a quick walk outside. Try to get away from your desk for lunchtime-whether it’s just going to sit elsewhere to eat or going for a walk. See if your company offers standing desks, and see if you can switch out your seated desk for one. Instead of using a chair, bring in a Swiss ball and use that to sit on. See if you can do walking meetings-outside or around the office. If you have a cell phone, take your conference calls for a walk too! See if your company will allow you to organize a walking or running group, or bring in exercise instructors for group classes. If there’s a gym nearby your office, see if you can get a special group rate for your company (most gyms offer programs like this!)
However you bring wellness into work, encourage your co-workers to join you! A healthy workplace is a happy workplace!