The Covid-19 outbreak that began in one Chinese province has forced lockdowns in places as far away as Italy, Iran and Japan, besides neighbouring South Korea. Even people who haven’t been infected by the virus have been affected by the curbs on movement and travel in some of these locations. Living under the shadow of a disease that’s already claimed over 2500 lives is stressful enough; but working from home for extended periods of time can compound the challenge for workers.
Working from home may be a privilege for many, but for those unaccustomed to it, it presents its own challenges. The relative inactivity, upsetting of one’s daily routine, reduced social contact, and other productivity barriers can make it tough to get things done. Going beyond the Covid-19 scenario, this applies to pretty much anyone who works remotely. Working at home can be a lonely affair, but at the same time, there’s no enforced deadline to get up and go home, unlike at a regular office. Emails, calls and documentation can drag on endlessly when you’re available 24 hours a day, and before you know it, the line between your work and private life gets blurred.
We live in an age of sedentary comforts; even our work chairs have wheels that allow you to glide across to a nearby desk instead of getting up and walking over. But our bones, muscles and joints are made for movement, and they end up really bearing the brunt of our immobility. A recent study found that sitting for over 8 hours a day is associated with adverse health outcomes, including doubled risk of Type 2 diabetes and 10-20% higher mortality risk from cancer or cardiovascular disease. Sitting’s not as bad as smoking (the study concludes), but it’s certainly risky in its own way.
On the other hand, activity in the form of regular exercise has benefits in the form of improved mood, lower risk of anxiety and depression. And then there are the more obvious benefits on your weight, flexibility, strength and endurance that improves every aspect of our lives, from sleep to digestion and how energetic and productive we feel at work.
One big advantage of working from home is that you’re saving time on commuting, which you can commit to your health instead. Here are some Thrive Global micro-steps to creatively and effectively add movement to your daily routine.
Schedule activity in your day. The World Health Organisation recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week. Even on a packed day, taking aside 15-20 minutes for a brisk walk can help you move closer to that goal. Fencing off time for exercise in advance helps avoid ambiguity and makes you feel more committed to the goal.
Stretch at least twice daily. There are many stretching tutorials available online. The key is to get up from your desk and move some of the major muscles—like your legs, back, arms and neck—to get the blood flowing. If possible, change your position now and then to prevent chances of soreness or muscle fatigue setting in.
Get creative. A home-bound Chinese man recently became famous for feats like running 66 kilometres within his small apartment and spot-running 30 kilometres in the bathroom. While you don’t need to spend several hours on exercise like he did, you can get creative—run up and down the stairs of your apartment, do push-ups, squats, planks and other floor exercises at home, use water bottles for dumb-bells, look up some yoga movements, dance or jump rope. If possible, go for a short walk in your neighbourhood with a family member or friend, since that might you feel more motivated.
Stand up often. Whenever you get a work phone call, walk with your phone instead of taking it at your desk. If you’re thirsty, get up and walk to the kitchen yourself. And if someone rings the doorbell, answer it yourself instead of having someone else do it. Use every opportunity to grab some movement, and you’ll definitely be the better for it.