How an active office can help combat obesity

Last week, the UK government launched a new plan to tackle obesity among both adults and children. It is the first step in a wide range of measures designed to help people lose weight and improve their fitness. Just under two thirds of adults and around one third of children of primary school leaving age are over a healthy weight. This has numerous long-term health consequences and, pressingly, has been identified as one of the risk factors for becoming seriously ill from COVID-19.

Given the long hours most adults spend working, we look at how to be healthier at work and ways in which the workplace can support employees in their goal to improve fitness. Whether in the office or working from home, the way you work and the resources available can make a big difference. That’s why AJ Products is passionate about the active office and has teamed up with ukactive to find ways to improve health in and out of the workplace.

Working from home? Find out how to make your home office a healthy workspace. Remember your employer is still responsible for your wellbeing when you’re working remotely, the same as when you’re in the office.

Why sit when you could stand?

Working at a standing desk will make a difference to your activity levels by getting you up on your feet but, even better, by ensuring you don’t stand still. Some of the additional movement will come naturally; just by standing up you are more likely to walk around your workspace and move about on the spot. Another way to do it is by using a standing desk mat or a balance board, both of which are designed to promote constant movement and encourage you to continually shift your position while standing. This small amount of movement may seem insignificant but in fact it helps to boost your metabolism, making it easier to burn calories and lose weight. Over the course of a week, standing at your desk for a few hours a day adds up to a lot of extra physical activity.

A smart sit-stand desk will even send reminders to your computer to prompt you to stand up. Plus you can track your progress over time, allowing you to set yourself goals.

Exercise at your desk

An active office makes it possible for you to keep moving even when you’re at your desk. Thanks to the myriad options available, you can tailor the intensity of the exercise to suit your fitness level and the work you do. Switching your regular office chair for an exercise ball chair (even for only a few hours a day) forces you to work your core muscles to maintain the correct posture, keeping your body in constant motion. This light movement adds up through what is known as non-exercise activity thermogenesis (or NEAT): the energy you use to do small everyday tasks. The more NEAT activities you do, the more calories you burn and the better your overall physical health will be.

Increase the intensity of your workout with a walking treadmill to keep you moving while you stand at your desk or go one step further still with a desk exercise bike. Just by using the fitness equipment for half an hour in the morning and again after lunch, it’s easy to fit in an hour of exercise every day.

Change the culture

Creating an active office environment also engenders a change of culture within the business. Staff who see their colleagues being more active will naturally follow suit. This change shouldn’t just be limited to the immediate work environment. Businesses should encourage employees to walk or cycle to work where possible by making everyone aware of Cycle to Work schemes and providing sufficient secure bike storage on the premises. Providing healthy food options on site also makes a big difference.

In order to improve fitness and maintain a healthy weight, it’s important to also find time to do the minimum 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise that it is recommend adults do each week but changing the way you work is a simple and effective first step for anyone no matter their level of fitness.