desk exercise

New Ways to Encourage Employee Movement – Even at the Desk

We’ve all heard it before: “If you’re on a mat and you’re breathing, you’re doing yoga.” Well, what if you’re in your swivel chair, breathing, and at your desk at work? Can you still benefit from yoga?

As we have frequently reported, well-run workplace wellness programs make employee movement a key part of program design.

Often the benefits are physical. One study titled “Work-related correlates of occupational sitting in a diverse sample of employees in Midwest metropolitan cities” states: ““Sedentary behaviors are linked to adverse health outcomes such as chronic disease risk factors, the development of chronic diseases, and mortality, possibly independent from levels of physical activity. Sedentary behavior is distinct from physical inactivity. For example, prolonged sitting (i.e., occupational sitting, watching TV) may exist among people who are physically active by engaging in sufficient recreational activity. Therefore, reducing prolonged sitting time and interrupting sitting time by active breaks is recommended even for adults who meet the recommended level of physical activity.”

Regular movement during the day also brings emotional or mental health benefits. A report published in PLoS One titled “Happier People Live More Active Lives: Using Smartphones to Link Happiness and Physical Activity” found that “individuals who are more physically active are happier. Further, individuals are happier in the moments when they are more physically active.”

Now a 2017 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study titled “Prevalence of Mindfulness Practices in the US Workforce: National Health Interview Survey” provides additional insight into the ways that employees and employers are benefitting significantly from mindfulness practices before, during, or after their regular work schedule.

By pooling the responses from over 85,000 adults who engaged in yoga, meditation, tai chi, qigong over at least a 12-month period, the CDC found that mindfulness practices addresses critical “workplace wellness needs.” It was also reported that, “Approximately 1 in 7 workers report engagement in some form of mindfulness-based activity, and these individuals can bring awareness of the benefit of such practices into the workplace.”

But how can employees who spend most of their day in a chair gain the benefits from yoga?

Kristin McGee, New York City yoga instructor and author of Chair Yoga, has been on a mission choose the positions that are most beneficial to Americans living sedentary lifestyles at home or at work. Her book identifies the best positions, for each body part, and explains the way that the given position can be done at work – even on the morning and afternoon commute. As she explains, “the art of yoga is being able to be present anywhere and tap into your vital life force to keep your body flexible, strong, and healthy.”

McGee outlines the importance of specific positions for the everyday worker. Side bends, she notes, will relieve back stiffness and pain. “Other work-friendly yoga poses include spinal twists, (which can be done seated or standing) eagle arms (great for stretching out wrists and shoulders), and mountain pose (for resetting your posture, boosting energy, and improving focus).”

So, while management is looking at ways to turn that wreck room into a yoga studio and carve a mandatory 30-minute workout block for you and your colleagues, you have your yoga mat, your breath, your desk, and your Chair Yoga.