6 tips to move more during home office
A remote office set-up offers privacy and if you decide to take a step away from your desk and stretch, no one is judging! One can see this as an opportunity to sneak more movement in your day, release stagnant energy, boost productivity, and roll out the red carpet for mood-enhancing endorphins. Included are additional wellness tips for a home office space and inexpensive home workout equipment.
Let's get into it!
There are various potential benefits that come from remote working and leaving conventional office environments, including axing the commute, more autonomy, and more control over your workspace- you can listen to music to boost creatively and help you transition into a workflow, or infuse the room with energizing essential oils without going against old office policies.
One can see this as an opportunity to get in more movement, release stagnant energy, feel less anxious, and improve your overall mood. The increased endorphins and blood flow to your brain and body will cause a wonderful cascade of health benefits, including benefits for your workday- more focus, increased productivity, less anxiety, and more creativity.
Need evidence of how cognitive performance can be positively influenced by a brief walk? Mualem et al. (2018) found that children achieved higher scores on memory, math, and detection tasks after a 10-minute walk around the schoolyard, compared to students who completed the tasks without the prior walk. Yes, you read that correctly, only a 10-minute walk can positively affect cognitive performance. This is motivating proof to encourage employees to exercise during work.
Below are six tips to encourage more movement in your day, plus additional wellness tips for your home office space. A suggestion is to find at least two or three that you wish to try, and commit to following it for at least three weeks.
If you change many behaviours at once, it is potentially more challenging to maintain over the long term. Pick what feels achievable for you, write them in your calendar, and tick them off when complete.
Remember to check in with yourself. Notice how your mood shifts when you exercise at different intensities. Notice how you feel after a 5-minute stretch or a quick walk around the block- are you more calm and focused to return to the task at hand? Find the sweet spot that says: YES, I feel refreshed and this was just what I needed!
6 tips to be more active during home office
- Commit to an exercise session every morning before you sit at your desk. Whether it’s a vinyasa flow, power yoga, HIIT, or resistance training- choose an exercise you enjoy. It should be something you look forward to and not dread. You will feel motivated to start your day with a movement that feels good. Even if you only have 10 minutes, break your workout into manageable chunks and continue throughout the day to get at least 30 minutes (e.g. 10 minutes before work, 10 minutes before lunch, 10 minutes to refresh during the afternoon slump).
- Set a movement/brain break timer on your phone, computer, or fitness watch every 30 minutes. Digital health apps and devices are incredibly handy for tracking your sitting and reminding you to stand. Commit to breaking up your sitting time every 30 minutes. Get up from your desk and walk around your home and complete some light stretches; perform light hops, squats and march in place to release your hip flexors and hamstrings, and get your blood flowing This will help you recenter and focus for work.
- Wear a pedometer or fitness watch and take your calls standing. Make it a habit to stand up from your desk and walk around the room during your calls. Peek at your pedometer and get more steps in on the phone call. Simple as that!
- Commit to a short brisk walk or run outdoors before your lunch break. The fresh air and movement will invigorate you and can spark creative juices to flow. Have access to a set of stairs? Take the stairs a few times.
- Perform a 3-minute cardio brain break before the afternoon slump. Jump rope for 3 minutes to get your heart pumping and deliver more oxygen to your body and brain, and notice your mood and focus improve afterward. If you don’t have a jump rope, jump on the spot. Feel free to add other exercises: 10 burpees, 30 mountain climbers, 30 high knees, 30 butt kicks, 30 jumping jacks, 30 alternating reverse lunges.
- Find a colleague to be your digital workout buddy. Research has shown that social support can provide a positive influence on healthy behaviours and also tackle loneliness which has been rising on account of the pandemic. There is a range of benefits:
- You hold each other accountable for your workouts and will be more likely to show up knowing someone else is waiting for you.
- Exercising with someone is great for motivation, sharing new exercises and progress, supporting each other and even starting some friendly competition.
- Socializing while exercising can make your workouts more enjoyable.
- Want to invite more people? Create a fitness group at work. Share and track workout routines, start fun runs, make a team for fun fitness obstacle courses, and create weekly or monthly fitness challenges with social fitness apps such as Fitbit and Nike Run Club.
Take a few moments after your exercise to check in with yourself: breathe deeply and scan your body. Notice the subtle shifts in your awareness:
Is your heart pumping faster?
Do you feel less stressed?
Are you more energized?
Do you feel stronger?
Has your mood shifted?
Remember these physical sensations next time you feel unproductive with stifled energy, or just need to clear your head and regroup and choose exercise as the tool. Use this knowledge of how physical activity makes you feel as a key motivator to continue your daily movement with whatever feels best for you.
Tip: Use the rating of perceived exertion (RPE) to monitor your physiological responses, intensity load and track your workout. If you want a quick refresher for energy and increased productivity for your workday, exercising at a vigorous intensity (RPE level of 8-10) may not be the best option. Perhaps a moderate intensity level at the 5-7 range is best to increase the blood flow and oxygen in your body, and get those creative juices flowing.
Set an intention/objective: I want to feel strong and work on resistance training, or I want to do a cardiovascular workout, or I want to stretch and release my muscles. Use that intention to plan your exercise type and intensity accordingly, whether it be a run, HIIT, or a HIFT workout, a quick full-body resistance workout or calisthenics workout, or a yoga session.
Write your workout plan with the FITT formula
Frequency: how often per week
Intensity: choose your intensity; max. heart rate, or reps, load, speed, or PRE
Time: length of time for each session
- Type: what type of exercise- running, swimming, HIIT, boxing, resistance training, etc.
Additional tips for well-being during remote work:
- Remember to set time aside for mental health with short mindfulness meditations, or a breathing session to re-center your mind, such as a round of Wim Hof Method breathing. You can also practice Vagus Nerve breathing exercises, such as diaphragmatic breathing.
- Think open and green-consider modifying your home office space to be more conducive to well-being. Biophilic design incorporates natural elements; a mixture of wood, water, plants, and natural lighting. Incorporating these elements in your home office design can enhance creativity and support feelings of general well-being.
Home office design tips
Place your desk in an open space facing a window for natural light.
Incorporate a few indoor green house plants around your view, which are calming to look at and filter air.
Decorate with bright colors that spark creativity, attention, and calmness, such as yellow, greens, and light blues.
Turn on your aromatherapy infuser with uplifting scents such as lemon, grapefruit, lemongrass, rosemary, and pine. Studies have shown that aromatherapy can enhance productivity. Huang & Ortís (2016) found that students in a room infused with petitgrain essential oil finished a computer task 2:28 minutes faster than the control group.
Go-to inexpensive fitness accessories
Yoga mat for floor work and stretching.
A range of dumbbells (or weighted items you can hold safely in your hands-water bottles, canned food, sandbags, grab anything that will give you the right amount of resistance for your workout.
Resistance bands-put them around your legs for resistance during lower body exercises.
Resistance tubes- these versatile tubes with handles can be used for upper and lower body exercises.
Floor gliders (or a towel, or magazine-whatever glides under your feet on the floor) - great for abdominal work, legs, and even upper body.
Stability ball-you’d be surprised how versatile it is and how quickly it will ignite your abs on fire. Tip: Plank with your elbows on the stability ball, alternate driving your knees in to tap the ball. I guarantee that if done with proper form, your core will engage and you will feel a satisfying burn.
Have a chair handy for step-ups or step up on your couch, or use a staircase if you have access.
If you are unsure where to start, a suggestion is to follow along to exercise videos online. YouTube has some good exercise channels with safe workouts from qualified instructors, with a range of workouts to fit your need and level. In addition, check if your local recreation center has uploaded any free workout content.
A note on online workout videos
Check in the channel description if the trainer mentioned their qualifications and/or training. If not, this person may have no training on designing and leading a safe workout. If a workout begins with explosive movements and lacks the important instruction to complete a proper warm up which included the muscles worked in the exercise session, you could potentially injure yourself, and it's best to find another video.
My favorites Youtube channels for workouts are Heather Robertson and Caroline Girvan but these are non-cueing during the workout. For yoga, Floating Yoga School and Doyogawithme offers a range of yoga sessions for all levels, timespans, and intentions.
Now let's get moving!
Huang, Lin & Ortís, Lluís. (2016). Aromatherapy Improves Work Performance Through Balancing the Autonomic Nervous System. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 23. 10.1089/acm.2016.0061.
Mualem, R., Leisman, G., Zbedat, Y., Ganem, S., Mualem, O., Amaria, M., Kozle, A., Khayat-Moughrabi, S., & Ornai, A. (2018, April 20). The effect of movement on cognitive performance. Frontiers.