Workplace Wellness – Exercise
We all have the best intentions when it comes to exercise but, if you are like most people, the demands of the workday and family responsibilities often get in the way. While you may not have time to get to the gym, this does not mean you need spend your entire workday sitting at your desk. With three inexpensive pieces of equipment you can easily turn your home office or workspace into an area conducive to physical activity.
To be able to track your progress and provide additional motivation for becoming active during the workday, you should have an idea of your baseline level of fitness. The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition has an online adult fitness test where you can assess your level of aerobic fitness, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, and body composition. After you enter all of your data you will receive an evaluation. Review your results and use them to set S.M.A.R.T goals (see article 1) for yourself in one or more of the areas. Take the tests again at regular intervals to measure your progress.
The site includes a Participation Screening Questionnaire that will assist you in determining if you are healthy enough to take the tests. As a reminder, always consult your physician before starting any fitness program. The link to the test is: www.adultfitnesstest.org/.
Ideally an exercise program should incorporate all of the following types of activity:
- Aerobic (with oxygen)/cardiovascular exercise increases the heart and breathing rate and is important for maintaining and improving heart and lung health and blood flow. Examples of aerobic activity include walking at a brisk pace, running, cycling, swimming, and Zumba dancing.
- Strengthening exercises involve the use of either weights or some type of resistance (such as bands) and challenges your muscles by providing a stress to the muscle that causes it to get stronger. Strength exercises do for your muscles what aerobic exercise does for your heart. Strength/weight training improves muscular fitness and can help you to tone your muscles, improve your appearance, and fight age-related muscle loss.
- Flexibility exercises such as stretching may help you improve your physical performance as well as decrease your risk of injury by helping your joints move through a full range of motion. Stretching also increases blood flow to the muscle and you may come to find that stretching gives you a sense of overall relaxation. Stretching can be done without any equipment or with the use of resistance bands.
Current recommendation for adults is to accumulate a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate physical activity 5 days per week. A great tool to help you to reach this goal is a pedometer. Pedometers are inexpensive and provide a way for you to track your progress. A key point to remember is that the 30 minutes does not have to be all at once. You can incorporate short 10–15 minute walk breaks into your workday and reach the goal recommendations without having to visit a gym. If you want to challenge yourself you may want to consider aiming for 10,000 steps per day, which is roughly equivalent to 30 minutes of activity or walking 5 miles. Wow! Sounds like a lot doesn’t it? It is doable if you follow a few simple steps: For the first week, simply record the number of steps you take each day. This will give you a baseline. Then each week aim to increase your steps by 20 percent. For additional information and a sample log, visit www.pbs.org/americaswalking/health/health20percentboost.html.
A resistance ball is a fantastic way to give your torso an all-day workout while improving the ergonomics of your workspace. You can also use it for abdominal exercises and even some simple upper and lower body strengthening exercises. Watch this short video from WebMD to view an explanation of basic exercises that work the muscles of your upper and lower body, giving you a complete workout that you can do in a 15-minute break or before your workday begins: www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/video/exercise-at-your-desk-ball.
Stretching is the third important component of a balanced exercise routine. Your stretches should focus on prevention of work-related injuries as well as stretches to improve or maintain flexibility. For injury prevention from repetitive use and poor ergonomics, view this slideshow from Mayo Clinic on stretching exercises you can perform at work: www.mayoclinic.com/health/stretching/WL00030.
Resistance bands or tubings are inexpensive equipment that you may want to purchase. These simple bands can be used for stretching the upper and lower body including the chest, side, inner and outer thigh, hamstrings, quadriceps, and hips. Ideally you should stretch each day but a good starter goal is to aim for at least 3 times per week. For more information and a visual of stretches that cover the major muscle groups, visit http://exercise.about.com/library/blbandstretch.htm.
Last but not least, it is important to ensure that your workspace is ergonomic. Considerations include the distance you sit from your computer screen, the way your hand sits on the mouse and keyboard, the type of chair you sit on, and how you sit. As discussed above, trading in your desk chair for a resistance ball is a great way to improve the ergonomics of your work area. For information on how to set up a healthy home office, take a few moments to view this webinar: https://khe2.adobeconnect.com/_a769721248/p17776742/?launcher=false&fcsContent=true&pbMode=normal.
With three inexpensive pieces of equipment, an easy-to-do fitness assessment, and tools for an ergonomically sound work area, you can set S.M.A.R.T. goals to help improve your level of fitness today.
Jennifer Koslo, PhD, RD, CSSD, CPT
Jennifer Koslo is a full time professor with Kaplan University’s School of Health Sciences and teaches courses such as Vitamins, Herbs, and Nutritional Supplements, Sports Nutrition, and Contemporary Diet and Nutrition. Ms. Koslo is a Registered Dietitian (RD) and one of the few Certified Specialists in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) in the country. In addition to teaching online, Ms. Koslo is a sports nutrition consultant on a private consultation basis.
Ms. Koslo received her Bachelor of Science in Biology from Juniata College, and earned a dual Master of Science in Human Nutrition and Exercise Science from Colorado State University. She earned her Registered Dietitian certification from the American Dietetic Association (ADA) and Colorado State University, and is a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics certification from the ADA. She also holds a PhD in Education with an emphasis in instructional design for online learning from Capella University.
In addition to serving in the US Peace Corps in Sierra Leone, West Africa, for 2-1/2 years, Ms. Koslo also worked as a cardiac rehabilitation dietitian, and at the Arizona Department of Health Services as the chronic disease nutritionist. She is also an American Council on Exercise Certified Personal Trainer.