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Be Smart About South Africa

Corporate Wellness Week: Make Exercise Part Of Your Job!

Almost four in ten South African adults are risking their health by not exercising enough.

A report released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) found that almost 40% of South Africans are dangerously inactive and that there’s been little improvement in exercise rates the last two decades.

“This makes us vulnerable to chronic disease, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers,” says Nicole Jennings, spokesperson for Pharma Dynamics – an advocate for self-care.

“With Corporate Wellness Week (4-8 July) around the corner, it reminds us that we cannot have healthy companies without a healthy workforce.

“Most employees blame their busy work/life schedules for not having enough time to exercise. While it’s difficult to carve out half an hour of exercise a day, it’s a must and something employers should encourage.

“Exercise before, during and after working hours is important. Just working out once a day and being sedentary for the rest of the workday, isn’t enough.

“Lack of physical activity doesn’t just affect your health, but your work performance, energy levels and engagement with colleagues as well.

“If your workplace doesn’t have an in-house gym, another way of creating an exercise culture at work is to start an in-office fitness routine. This can involve simple, yet effective exercises (without working up a sweat) that you can do at your desk.

Some examples include:

1. Stretching your head and neck to relieve tension.

2. Doing wrist stretches.

3. Seated leg raises.

4. Chair dips.

5. Calf raises.

6. Shadow boxing.

7. Opening your chest by stretching your arms passed your back.

8. Lunges.

9. Desk push ups.

10. Using a yoga ball is also a good way to keep your core activated throughout the day.

11. Stand while taking or making phone calls.

12. Walk to a colleague’s desk instead of phoning/texting or sending them an email.

13. Step away from your desk when taking a coffee break or eating lunch.

14. Take the stairs instead of the lift.

15. Go for a walk during your lunch break.

“The important thing is to keep moving regularly throughout the day to ensure good blood flow, which will improve posture, stability and suppleness.

“Exercise also relieves stress, improves our mood by releasing endorphins (those feel-good hormones), makes our hearts and immune systems stronger, gives us more energy, keeps our weight in check and enhances our productivity.”

Studies show that even our mental firepower is linked to how physically active we are. By incorporating regular exercise into your day, you can expect the following results:

• Improved concentration

• Sharper memory

• Faster learning

• Prolonged mental stamina

• Enhanced creativity

• Lower stress levels

Jennings says exercise during regular work hours may also boost performance.

“Research indicates that on days when employees go to gym, they generally have a more positive experience at work. They manage their time more effectively, are more productive, interact with colleagues better, and they feel more satisfied at the end of the workday.”

While it’s often difficult to find the time to exercise amid deadlines, chores and other responsibilities, Jennings suggests a few tried and tested strategies of incorporating exercise into your day:

1. Choose a sport/exercise that you enjoy.

2. Set yourself a goal – whether it’s to improve muscle strength, cardio or prepare for a marathon. Mastering one activity goal will likely lead to the next.

3. Join a gym, walking/running club, yoga group or dance class. Socialising makes exercise more fun and improves the chances of you sticking to it.

4. Exercise with your spouse, a friend or colleague, so you can motivate each other.

5. Set aside a specific time for exercise and schedule the rest of your day around it.

“A few tweaks to your workday routine can make a big difference towards your health and inspire others to do the same,” she encourages.

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