5 ways to stay active when working from home

By Professional Academy Management and Leadership Tutor, Kathryn Knights

The ritual of leaving the house and going to the office is usually one that we bolt good exercise habits onto e.g. going for a run before work, heading to the gym on the way home. But when you work from home those cues disappear and it’s easy to break your good habits. The result? You end up spending more time sitting down.

Our bodies aren’t designed to spend long hours sitting at a desk. Staying in one position for too long creates physical imbalances in the body. The fact that musculoskeletal problems and mental health issues account for over 30% of sick days in the UK can’t be ignored as an indicator that all is not well in the world of work. (Source: ONS, Sickness absence in the UK labour market: 2016)

Working from home doesn’t mean you have to compromise your health.

Here are some ways to keep your body moving:

1. Make your workspace awkward

You don’t have to dedicate hours of your week to exercise. There are other ways to get your body moving, it just requires a bit of thought.

In business we normally focus on how to make things quicker, simpler and more streamlined so we can be as productive as possible. When you take this approach to your home working environment it can result in long periods of time sitting down, because everything is right in front of you.

Changing the physical set up of your home office (and making it more awkward) can get you moving more frequently.

Try some of these ideas:

  • Put your glass of water in another room 
  • Put your phone in another room
  • Move your printer further away

2. Get moving at your desk

If tearing yourself away from your desk feels impossible then moving at your desk is a good alternative. Power-down your screen and switch off your phone to avoid any distractions then spend five minutes every hour doing some simple desk exercises to release tension and get the blood flowing.

Here are some simple ones:

  • Arm wraps
  • Shoulder rolls
  • Head turns – left to right
  • Head tilts – forwards and backwards
  • Arm swings / circles
  • Calf raises
  • Torso twists
  • Leg swings – side to side
  • Leg lifts

3. Join an online exercise class

Gym memberships can be expensive, especially if you’re the type of person who signs up and never goes! Online classes are a convenient way of getting your body moving, without having to leave your home. Generally you pay monthly to access a number of videos and other health-related content. It’s also possible to join live classes where people join the class and the teacher leads a session in real time. This interactive environment makes it far more likely that you’ll turn up and take part because you have some external accountability to ‘show up’ with your class mates. Check out the Pilates classes for beginners that I run for some inspiration.

4. Get walking

If classes aren’t for you then just get walking, ideally in a green space. Getting into nature will help you relax and take you away from the ‘noise’ of urban life’. Some analysis even suggests that physical activity in a natural environment can help remedy mild depression and reduce physiological stress indicators. The bonus of walking is that you don’t need any special equipment, just slip you shoes on and go. And 10 minutes of walking is really all you need to feel the benefit.

5. Put it in your calendar

You wouldn’t forget to put a client meeting in your calendar, so why do the same with exercise. Your calendar is a tool to help you stay organised and ensure you spend time the way you planned to. Going for a walk won’t just happen unless you make it happen. Putting a date in your diary might seem over the top, but it’s all too easy to let the working day take over and get to 5pm realising you haven’t left your desk all day. Get smart and put your active time in your diary.

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