#MTtalk: Exercise and Physical Health at Work » Mind Tools Blog
Exercise and Physical Health at Work

#MTtalk: Exercise and Physical Health at Work

October 31, 2017

Mind Tools

Core Values, Core Health

In conversations about leadership, we likely discuss our values and how they influence our lives and decisions. We also talk about how our values can, and do, change over time.

Living a healthy life is now one of my core values – but it wasn’t always the case.

In my early 20s, I was extremely overweight. It took me quite a long time to lose the weight, and I was only successful in maintaining it once I’d realized that I had to make permanent lifestyle changes.

Over the years, I changed my eating habits completely, and also became physically fit and active.

Health and Resilience

But how have these changes helped me at work? I’ll share a few of the most important benefits that I’ve experienced.

First, I feel better about myself, inside and out. My attitude toward myself and others improved and I became more confident. That led to me finding my voice, and I started to speak up in meetings. I also volunteered for more and bigger projects. Of course, all of this gave my career a boost.

Second, my energy levels have increased dramatically. I wonder how I would feel today if I strapped weights to my body all day, every day? I can only imagine how much more effort it would take to do simple things like climbing a flight of stairs.

Lastly, my improved energy and confidence have made me more resilient. I am able to handle stress much better than I could during my fat, unfit days. Events that would have seemed like major problems before have simply become things to deal with in the course of a day.

Our Health in the Workplace

One of the biggest threats to our health – and one that many of us face at work – is sitting down all day. During our #MTtalk Twitter chat last week, we discussed “Exercise and Physical Health at Work.” Here are all of the questions that we asked during the chat, and some of the responses:

Q1 What do you think is the most important benefit at work of being physically fit?

@harrisonia Being physically fit helps keep you nimble and improves your response time internally, which then shows externally.

@jeremypmurphy Physical fitness relaxes us and sparks creativity for stronger, more productive days: brings happiness and joy too.

Q2 How does your workplace promote/encourage employees to stay healthy?

(Helping your employees to stay healthy is a great return on investment, yielding less sick days and higher productivity!)

@70mq My workplace is my home. I can plan healthy meals & I can work out my own walking/Pilates schedule. So I am very lucky.

@Jikster2009 A dedicated interchange site for physical/mental/emotional/financial well-being. They regularly publish articles of support.

Q3 Some workplaces include opportunities for ad hoc activities such as table tennis in the office – how useful or appropriate is this trend?

@Yolande_MT In my opinion this trend is useful, appropriate and necessary! We can’t think about offices like we did 40 years ago.

@maat333 Very! It promotes three elements at the same time: Physical exercise, team integration & the healthy distraction from work.

Q4 In your opinion, what are the dangers of sitting too much?

@MicheleDD_MT Sedentary lifestyle is as hazardous as smoking. Leads to increased heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure.

@katefrappell Tailbone pain! Super inconvenient, painful and not easily cured. Apparently super common too…?

@MurrayAshley Back pain. I speak from experience. All the hunching is a huge problem.

Q5 How can you build more movement into your daily activities?

(There’s a lot you can do to move more, and it doesn’t have to involve a gym!)

@Midgie_MT Take a walk break rather than coffee break, hold walking meetings rather than sit-down kind, park car further away from office.

@manavlalotra I wear a tracker device, ensure that I walk at least 10K steps every day, take stairs instead of elevators, go to people rather than calling.

@NBlairHRDigital I work from home, so it is a priority that I move about during the day. I may have had a little dance during a break! Lol.

Q6 What role does your journey to work have in your physical health? What changes could you make?

(Many people must use cars for practical reasons, but almost all agreed that negotiating heavy traffic isn’t a great way to start your day.)

@hopegovind I usually park my bike around half a kilometer away from the railway station and never take an auto for a distance less than two kilometers.

@Jikster2009 When commuting I now walk 30 mins from central London station to my office (and back) rather than get the Underground.

Q7 What types of exercises have you found to be best for your overall health and well-being?

(Participants engage in a wide range of activities, from walking, cycling and swimming to boxing, dancing and playing with a dog.)

@rinkutalk  For me what works best is yoga (ensures both physical as well as mental fitness) and stretches using theraband.

@GThakore Daily walking, deep breathing and meditation is enough to be happy, whole and healthy.

@TwisterKW  I need music! I prefer to work out at home. Aerobic workouts. Worst case… I crank music and dance. Sweat, out of breath, happy!

Q8 In what ways can a healthy lifestyle help employees to improve their performance at work?

@LifeSpeak Healthy employees are more alert, engaged and resilient. Positive personal habits can translate into positive professional habits too.

@hibbikay Positive attitude and mindset; not sluggish.

Q9 How flexible could you be with an employee who wanted to exercise during their lunch break?

@thevijaymahajan You need to encourage and motivate such a person by recognizing their effort in setting an example.

@NWarind So flexible that I will exercise with them to bond and don’t let them get too carried out and get late for work!

Q10 How might you encourage employees to get active for the health benefits?

@BrainBlenderTec Strictly ballroom! Get team into dance lessons; it’s an amazing workout, fun and builds team bonds.

@Yolande_MT Hunger means your body needs nourishment, not loads of calories. Eat well. Move more. Start now.

@MicheleDD_MT We set up monthly activity challenges with small prizes. Create team events that get people up & moving.

Next time, on #MTtalk…

Big choices only come along every now and again, but small choices come along daily.

However, even small choices can make a major difference. We’d like to know which small choice in your life could bring about the biggest change. Let us know by voting in our poll over here.

In our next #MTtalk on Friday, November 10, our topic is “Small Choices, Big Changes.” To share your thoughts and ideas, please join us at 1 p.m. EDT/ 6 p.m. GMT/ 8 p.m. CAT/ 11:30 p.m. IST.

To participate, type #MTtalk in the Twitter search function. Then, click on “All Tweets” and you’ll be able to follow the live chat feed. To join the conversation yourself, simply include #MTtalk in your tweet and it will show up in the chat feed.


In the meantime, here are some resources that will help you to learn more about exercise and physical health at work:

Improving Physical Health and Well-Being at Work

Finding the Right Work-Life Balance

Avoiding Burnout

Coping Under Pressure

Getting More Exercise

Working With Seasonal Affective Disorder

And Mind Tools Club members can access the full versions of the following articles:

Walking Meetings

Creating a Healthy Workplace

Physical Relaxation Techniques

10 Ways to Get a Better Night’s Sleep

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