Some interesting research was recently shared with me by one of my students. It was a survey of 2,017 Australian adults about exercise, and workplace attitudes towards wellbeing and exercise.
It was of particular interest to me because as a yoga teacher I’m constantly encouraging…maybe even ranting at my students to take a small amount of time regularly to move at work even if it’s just a simple neck/shoulder stretch or checking in with posture and pelvic/spinal alignment while sitting at their desk.
In any case when I read the first paragraph of the article and it stated that more than Half of the participants, 54% felt that pressures from their job was a barrier to regular exercise, I had to keep reading to understand more about corporate workplaces and cultures and practises…you see I have never worked in a corporate job, but I see the effects of long work hours, sitting, and the stress of meeting deadlines on my students bodies and minds daily.
The survey also uncovered that 23% of participants felt that managers or team cultures were not supportive of regular exercise.
This was probably one of the most interesting findings of the survey for me as a yoga teacher who regularly visits different corporate environments. Considering all of the overwhelming research that we now have about movement and exercise and its positive effect on employee productivity and job satisfaction. I think this is one area that companies can really work on to help reshape their workplace culture to be more supportive and encouraging of exercise.
With happier and healthier employees meaning fewer sick days being taken, higher productivity and a lower staff turn over rate…right?
10% of people in the survey had concerns that their peers may view them as being less hard working for participating in regular exercise activities.
We now know and the research supports that prolonged periods of sitting are associated with increased cardio metabolic risk factors. A paper published in August this year (2016) by some Australian researchers looked at the effect of interrupted sit time with brief bouts of light walking or simple resistance activities…and when I say short I mean they made study subjects do 3 minutes of either walking or resistance type movements every half hour.
They found that resting blood pressure was reduced as was plasma noradrenaline a hormone released by the adreanal glands that influences cardiovascular functioning and blood pressure. The group that did the resistance type exercises for 3 mins came out with better results than the walking group, yoga is a great form of resistance exercise….just saying : )
Apart from the cardiovascular benefits of regular movement, it will also decrease pressure on lower back and decrease back pain and shoulder and neck tension which can lead to headaches and poor concentration and focus. Of those who took part in the survey 43% spent 6-7 hours a day sitting at a desk or meeting.
The information is out there and companies can do a lot to help support their employees move away from a sedentary cycle. 80% of the participants mentioned health as being quite or very important to their work performance. Yet only 14% of employees had access to health activities through work.
Australian organisations are definitely getting better. I run regular in house classes for companies, many of them subsidising all or a portion of the cost of the class.
I would have liked to share some of the names and feedback from these companies with you but was impatient to get this info out so I’ll save it for a future post. With some of the companies I work with the employees themselves organise and take responsibility for the class covering the cost themselves, which is also great to see as it’s clear they are committed to looking after their health and wellbeing. The convenience of having it at work is great as we’re all busy and have family/life responsibilities to meet.
Many of my students mention that it’s one of the highlights of the week as it gets them away from their desk for a short time and they know they will feel better after the yoga class and ready to face the rest of the days challenges. It also helps to foster a better team attitude and support for fellow work colleagues in staying healthy and balanced.
I think companies can do more in the way of encouraging and increasing awareness in the workplace around the importance of regular movement and exercise for wellbeing and performance.
Interestingly those taking part in the survey actually mentioned access to regular yoga classes as a desire to help them get going as well as internal gyms and massages.
The survey was commissioned by the Cerebral Palsy Alliance.
Dempsey PC, Sacre JW, Larsen RN, Straznicky NE, Sethi P, Cohen ND, Cerin E, Lambert GW, Owen N, Kingwell BA, Dunstan DW. Interrupting prolonged sitting with brief bouts of light walking or simple resistance activities reduces resting blood pressure and plasma noradrenaline in type 2 diabetes. J Hypertens. 2016 Aug 10.