A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. – Lao Tzu
Lao Tzu was credited with coining the oft-cited phrase ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’ While we like to think of this as an analogy for a spiritual journey or major life change, let’s consider the growing need for that single step. A UK study found that the average Briton spends 20 hours a day sitting or lying down (up from 14 hours in 2010 according to another study by the same organisation). Similar findings are coming from the US, Australia and many other parts of the world where sedentary office work dominates and is supplemented with seated commuting and nightly TV watching.
This increase in inactivity is not only linked to obesity but a whole host of physical, emotional and mental disturbances from diabetes and cardiovascular disease to depression and insomnia. Even if we fit exercise in, we can’t escape the impact on our bodies of so much time spent motionless.
Dr James Levine at The Mayo Clinic, speaking to NBC News, put it like this:
“Being sedentary for nine hours a day at the office is bad for your health whether you go home and watch television afterwards or hit the gym. It is bad whether you are morbidly obese or marathon-runner thin. It appears that what is critical and maybe even more important than going to the gym, is breaking up that sitting time.”
5 Ways to Get More Movement into Your Day:
If the treadmill desk seems a little unworkable at your office, consider these 5 easy ways to get more movement into your working day, each with some happy side effects!
If you can’t walk or cycle to work, consider adjusting your drive or public transport route to get moving. Park a few blocks from the office or get off the bus/train/tube a couple of stops early. Grounding yourself, literally, can have a major impact on mental health as one study found commuters who biked or walked experienced less stress and better concentration as a result.
We learn that water is a huge part of our physical composition early in life yet a huge number of us are chronically dehydrated. Symptoms can include bloating, dry skin and even poor concentration. Upping our H2O intake helps our internal organs do their job: detoxifying the body, transporting nutrients and aiding digestion. When we drink water regularly, we will naturally hear the call of nature more frequently, forcing us out of our static sitting position regularly and getting us moving. You can fill up your water glass on the way back – win win!
3. Walk & Talk
Many of us have regular weekly meetings with our boss or colleagues to check-in with progress to goals. Why not take these on the road? A change of scenery can spark creativity and the added psychological benefit of ‘walking in the same direction’ is more conducive to collaboration than the traditional face-to-face from opposite sides of the boardroom table.
4. Take lunch
Bupa claims that UK companies are losing almost £50 million a day in lost productivity because most workers work through lunch, often due to pressure from superiors. They found just 3 in 10 of us take a lunch hour and the remaining 70% find the afternoon energy slump means losing 40 minutes of productivity at the end of the day! Reclaim that lunch break you are entitled to and spend some of it on the hoof, ideally in green space. Your boss will thank you when you come back more focused, creative and energized.
5. Stretch yourself
Join the ever-growing number of work places integrating movement into the working day with on-site yoga classes. As well as helping us shake off stress, strengthen the immune system and counteract the sedentary habit, yoga has been shown to reduce lower back pain, a major cause of workplace absence, improve concentration and foster collaboration among employees. The chances are many co-workers would be equally happy to have the yoga studio come to them so why not take the initiative and start the ball rolling? When your boss sees the impact on absenteeism, productivity, collaboration and other ‘hard goals’ over time, chances are they will join you on the mat and see the direct impact of movement on wellbeing and productivity.
Take the first step today. Your body was designed to move, so use it or lose it!