In our heart of hearts, most of us know we spend too much of the day sitting down. Outside of work out lives are full of family and social commitments. We know it’s not good for our health, but there are so many reasons not to get moving. A Benenden survey found that only 4% of workers visit the gym at lunchtime. So perhaps the trick is to bring the gym to the office.
If there is a gym or leisure centre nearby, ask management about free or subsidized memberships. Or would they consider paying for an instructor to come to the office? You’re more likely to succeed if you point out the benefits for the company, suggest a venue and demonstrate staff interest by collecting names of colleagues who’d like to take part.
Many companies take a pro-active role when it comes to exercise and wellbeing. At Benenden Hospital they have a Health and Wellbeing Committee which runs Pilates and yoga sessions, a walking club, a slimming club and ‘Food for Thought’ sessions where a councillor helps staff examine their attitudes to food. “We also have healthy promotions in the canteen,” says Jack Harland, Assistant to the Benenden Hospital Director, and chairman of the Health and Wellbeing Committee. “That includes a regular healthy homemade soup, a healthy breakfast, and we’re planning no salt and low fat days.”
Benenden’s approach is holistic, offering staff quarterly health checks and regular consultation through surveys, suggestion boxes and discussions, and they are reaping the benefits. “As a responsible employer, by starting and supporting things like this we get a healthier and happier, more engaged workforce,” says Jack Harland. “Last October we achieved the Investors in People Health and Wellbeing Award, which is a visible and well-known demonstration of commitment to your staff.”
If your company doesn’t want to contribute, see if some of you can club together and hire an instructor yourself. Classes don’t need to be indoors if there’s an open space nearby (although some of us may not fancy exercising in the park during the British winter!) Or you could get together and follow an exercise video – there are loads you can download for free.
Walking groups are becoming really popular and take next to nothing to set up – just someone willing to organize the time and place and put up a few notices or send emails. And it doesn’t matter if only two of you turn up on the first day: word will soon get around. Plan different routes to keep people interested and gradually go further as you get fitter. If you have a company newsletter or website, ask if you can write about the group to encourage others to join.
Aim to ease into the walk for the first three minutes and adopt a good, upright stance with your chin up. Most people can cover one and a half to two miles in 30 minutes, burning around 200 calories. You should aim to walk fast enough to make your breathing heavier, but not get so out of breath that you can’t talk. Try to avoid routes with lots of street crossings, which will slow you down. Vary the route you take, and include 30 second bursts of fast walking or running up and down steps for a change of pace.
And remember, whatever else you do, enjoy yourself!
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