By Allison Goldberg
With quarantine stretching on, most gyms and classes remaining closed, and the average commute now being 3.5 seconds, it’s pretty hard to get those steps in. Fortunately, there are creative ways to prevent all of one’s muscles from atrophying while working from home indefinitely.
The benefits of a non-sedentary lifestyle are countless, from reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, to improved cognitive function and decreased anxiety and depression. And yet, a 2018 study revealed that in the U.S. “about 1 in 4 sit for more than 8 hours a day, 4 in 10 are physically inactive, and 1 in 10 report both.”
Take A Cue From Japan
From anime, to cat cafes, to ice cream that doesn’t melt, Japan is crushing it. Add workplace exercise to the list. While American companies often give gym memberships as perks, Japanese companies began building exercise right into the workday years ago. And there are benefits to the bottom line, which is something U.S. businesses should embrace. Japan Airline’s Chief Director of Health (which, yes, is apparently a position) has stated that the company now registers fewer sick days and insurance costs.
For now, team leaders should create 5-minute workouts that blend right in with productivity. For instance, after a morning meeting, try the Pomodoro Technique, in which people work for 25 minutes straight, and then take a 3-5 minute break. After 4 pomodoros, take a 15-30 minute break. During any of these breaks, meet up with colleagues for quick stretches and workouts.
If it’s too complicated to wrangle coworkers to stretch by Zoom or you’re an entrepreneur working alone from home, then Wakeout is for you. (No affiliation with the author or with Forbes.) With this app, users can select an amount of time for focused work (e.g. 30 minutes), and when 30 minutes is up, it offers the user a series of short, creative exercises that can literally be done from your couch. When those exercises are finished, you can select another timed work session. Wakeout has endless creative at-home options, including exercises that can be done in bed (with pillows) and in the kitchen (with frying pans). It also has an entire work-from-home category.
Not Boring Workouts
If you’d rather learn while exercising, Not Boring Workouts offers short (10-20 minute) workouts with a different subject for every single episode. Topics range from the history of the electoral college, to explaining Q-Anon, to brief biographies of historical women you should know about, such as Bertha Benz or the real genius behind Monopoly. The stories include exercise instruction and when to switch moves. Similar to the above ideas, they can fit right into work breaks. For an added bonus: Try one with coworkers and discuss what you learned afterwards. (Disclosure: Not Boring Workouts is hosted by the author of this article.)
Incorporate Movement Directly Into Internal Meetings
Encourage each employee to develop a “signature move”, which could be as simple as… standing. Others can be punching the air (2020 deserves it), Warrior 1, or whatever colleagues decide. (Anything but shavasana.) As coworkers slowly memorize each person’s move, incorporate them into any and all internal meetings. If someone starts speaking, it’s time for everyone to do “their” move, even if it’s just one rep. It’s a way to gamify meetings, lighten the mood, and get everyone moving at the same time.
Generally speaking, when people are frantically trying to meet deadlines, taking a break always feels counterintuitive. And yet studies consistently show that people are more productive after short, physical breaks. In other words, the barrier tends to be mental, rather than physical. As leaders, start instituting small moments of physical activity today and the practice will slowly become a pervasive norm. Happy crunching, crouching, and lifting couch cushions from one side to the other!