MEJ Masthead

Get Active at Work

Ashleigh Went

On Wednesday morning I sat at my desk at work, drink bottle in hand, doing shoulder presses while reading my emails.

As much as I love my fitness, this is not standard workplace practice for me (although perhaps it should be!).

I was actually completing one of the activities from the 10 Minute Turn Around Active Workplace Challenge. The Challenge is an initiative of the Physical Activity Foundation and Healthier Work ACT and is designed to get workers up on their feet and moving.

We’ve all heard that ‘sitting is the new smoking’, with some studies even linking prolonged periods of sitting linked to obesity and even to a higher risk of death.

Harriet Walker, Active Kids Challenge & Active Workplace Challenge Coordinator at the Physical Activity Foundation filled me in on just how bad sitting can be.

“Sedentary behaviour, independent of exercise done in a planned manner, is linked to a number of different things. There are muscular implications so you might get lazy glutes, tight hip flexors, neck pain or postural issues. Then there’s the metabolic issues: decreased insulin sensitivity and loss of lean muscle mass, so there’s lots of reasons why it’s not good for us.”

Inactivity isn’t just bad for workers: it’s bad for employers, too with the benefits of exercise extending well beyond the physical.

One study at the Stanford University showed that creativity increased by an average of 60% after a walk. From a business standpoint, encouraging physical activity in the workplace can yield a significant return on investment.

Long time Foundation Patron & activity ambassador ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr presenting a Silver Healthier Work ACT Award to local engineering experts Barmco Mana Partnership

Long time Foundation Patron & activity ambassador ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr presenting a Silver Healthier Work ACT Award to local engineering experts Barmco Mana Partnership. 

“From a cost benefit perspective, you’re better off letting your employees get up and move around for increased creativity and productivity, less absenteeism, and better engagement with work.”

The idea for the Active Workplace Challenge was born from the success of the Active Kids Challenge.

“It was a lightbulb moment” said Harriet. “We were talking about extending the Active Kids Challenge, where we had over 21,000 kids take part and the obvious choice was to progress it into a workplace challenge!”

“We looked at what’s happening in the fitness industry and what’s going on in government, and tried to find a suitable middle ground that could be rolled out on a large scale.”

The Foundation pitched the idea to Healthier Work, and with that, the 10 Minute Turn Around Active Workplace Challenge was born!

The initial Challenge runs for 8 weeks, from 11 October to 19 December, and participants are encouraged to perform three blocks of 10 minute activities.

“It’s a good entry level  program, especially for people who aren’t normally active – 10 minutes is something achievable for everyone.”

I told Harriet that I’m fairly sure my colleagues think I’m mad after watching my antics over the course of the program’s first week – shoulder pressing my drink bottle, shaking as I ‘jig’ my feet under the desk or grunting as I try and keep my legs out straight at a 90 degree angle (not my most attractive moment).

“That’s the idea – it’s a very serious message, and it’s a very serious problem, but we’re trying to tackle it with a lighthearted approach. If walking lunges in the office becomes a joke, at least you’re doing walking lunges. It’s a conversation starter.”

That’s certainly true, and the conversation is taking place on a massive scale, with over 98 workplaces and around 800 individuals signing up for the challenge.

Foundation CEO Lucille Bailie introducing some of the 10min Turnarounds to guests & wondering if Capitals training sessions were ever this much fun!

Foundation CEO Lucille Bailie introducing some of the 10min Turnarounds to guests & wondering if Capitals training sessions were ever this much fun!

The success of the campaign, only in it’s first year, is no doubt due in part to the passion and hard work of the Physical Activity Foundation. The team is small, but their impressive skill sets cover all the bases.

“Emma Tattam has a really great communications and sales background, our CEO Lucille Bailie is an expert in partnerships and sales, and then I’ve got my nutrition and public health background. Between the three of us, it’s a really great mix.”

The campaign was celebrated on Tuesday 20 October at the Healthier Working Day Breakfast.

“We had Chief Minister Andrew Barr there, the ACT WorkSafe Commissioner Mark McCabe, Canberra Business Chamber CEO Robyn Hendry, along with all the Healthier Work workplaces who were registered.”

ACT Worksafe Commissioner Mark McCabe doing an awesome squat to help launch the Active Workplace Challenge 10min Turnarounds

ACT Worksafe Commissioner Mark McCabe doing an awesome squat to help launch the Active Workplace Challenge 10min Turnarounds.

If you haven’t registered, it’s not too late! Visit the Healthier Work Active Workplace Challenge website to sign up.

Here are 10 different activities you can try in your workplace, courtesy of the Challenge:

  1. Take all phone calls standing up on one leg
  2.  Have an office walking meeting
  3. Hold a 10,000 steps pedometer challenge and award bonus points for improving steps during the work day. (Healthier Work can provide pedometers)
  4. Grab your sticky tape dispenser and do 10 x 1 minute shoulder presses, alternating arms
  5. Take your lunch and walk 5 minutes away to eat it, then walk back to the office
  6. Grab a ream of paper and perform 20 squats, 20 over head presses and 20 abdominal crunches. Repeat for 10 minutes
  7. Do squats every time you make tea until the kettle boils
  8. In your seat, raise your legs out straight while bracing your abdominal. Hold for 2 minutes and repeat 5 times. Make it harder by holding a water bottle between your feet
  9. Sitting at your desk, ‘jig’ your legs without stopping for 10 minutes
  10. Do 10-15 squats every minute on the minute for 10 minutes.

 

Feature image of ‘asian businesswoman looking at work on laptop computer‘ via Shutterstock. 

user

Ashleigh Went

HerCanberra ACTIVE Editor Ashleigh Went has a passion for all things health and wellness. As someone who loves champagne and cheese almost as she loves a sweaty workout, she's all about living a healthy, balanced lifestyle. She can usually be found with her nose in a book, planning her next adventure, in the gym or updating her Instagram @wentworthavenue. More about the Author