We all know we need to get up and move to stay healthy, but with the pace of work these days, it can present a real challenge for the average person in their workday. One of the best ways to improve physical and cognitive health and well-being, plus give productivity a pick-me-up is to take advantage of beautiful weather and get outside!
Despite the popularity of fitness trackers, pedometers and mass PR campaigns about getting in your 10,000 steps a day, a multitude of studies show that in reality, office workers move very little during their 8-hours at work. In fact, the average seems to fall in the neighbourhood of between 3000 and 4500 steps. With busy families and other commitments outside of work, it seems that despite our best efforts, not all of us are able to make it to the gym regularly.
So, how much should we be moving?
The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends that adults between the ages of 18 and 64 get 150 minutes – or 2.5 hours -- of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. We shouldn’t feel overwhelmed that we have to do it in one session either. Every minute of movement counts. In fact, it might be easier to break it up into shorter ten-minute segments.
Let’s also clear up what constitutes moderate-intensity aerobic activity. The Agency states that “Moderate-intensity aerobic activity makes you breathe harder and your heart beat faster. You should be able to talk, but not sing.” (Government of Canada. Physical Activity Tips for Adults 18-64.) That means that walking, bike riding and skating are all good.
Movement benefits the general health of our entire bodies and addresses looming health risks of chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease and dementia. But we’re obviously conflicted about focusing time to get in our RDAs – that is, recommended daily activitie
A prescription for your health doesn’t have to be a tough pill to swallow
One way around our sedentary tendencies might be for physicians to write out prescriptions for exercise, not just medication, as part of an official treatment plan. People tend to fill their prescriptions because they’re written with authority – often to improve or even save lives. Following your doctor’s orders, as prescribed, takes on new meaning. It could be a wakeup call for some who may have been content in the past to share that their doctor has said they should take better care of themselves. Shifts in commitment and better results show that this may be one of the most effective strategies to use to change behaviour.
In the meantime, before you ask your doctor for a prescription, think about a few of the ways that you can easily find ways to be more active during your workday. Walking is one of the best forms of activity that that gets full marks for being able to be done in short intervals and with little to no equipment. All you need is footwear to start. You can add a refillable water bottle to the list to keep you hydrated along the way. And if you wanted to infuse some hi-tech, you can always look at fitness tracking, either through an accessory or via an app on your mobile device.
Walk and talk
Getting active for as little as ten minutes at a time provides cumulative benefits over the course of a day. It aligns perfectly with the time you might take for a coffee break – but the boost you get is from the exercise, not the caffeine and snack that may have formed part of your routine before. You’ll also have greater success in the long run if you start small. Once you notice your body responding, change up your new routine by increasing the frequency, intensity and duration of your walks.
Parking at the back of the lot, reserving time in your lunch break for a short walk after you’ve finished eating, or even inviting your colleague to a “walking meeting” – inside or outside – these are all ways you can easily step-up to challenge yourself to get more active during the day. Whatever you do, use a calendar to keep a record of your activity. It will make you more aware of what you need to do the commit to making a change.
If you have questions about this topic or what can be done to manage your benefits program better, please contact us. We're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
Dave Dickinson, B.Comm, CFP, CLU, CHFC
Experienced Benefits Specialist ready to optimize your group benefits and pension plans.