Moving our bodies is a proven strategy for boosting our mood, with studies showing that regular exercise can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression, enhance cognitive function, and promote feelings of happiness and wellbeing.

Research by Mental Health UK shows that 56% of people found that exercising regularly helped them to alleviate stress and prevent burnout in their lives.

We don’t need to exercise for long to feel the benefits, either. Just a short burst of activity, such as a brisk, 5 to 10 minute walk, or a few minutes of stretching, can have an immediate impact on our mood, making it a powerful tool for managing stress and maintaining mental resilience.

With so many people in the UK struggling with mental health, we need all the tools available. A recent mental health report from the Global Mind Project revealed that the UK has the highest proportion of people in mental distress, alongside South Africa. Out of the 71 countries assessed, Britain was also found to have the second worst overall measure of mental health.

Growing numbers of people are living with mental illness in the UK; a group that is sadly more likely to develop preventable conditions like diabetes, heart disease, bowel cancer and breast cancer, and will on average die 20 years younger than the general population. 

The dramatic decline in mental wellbeing globally that occurred between 2019 and 2020 — and throughout the pandemic — has persisted with little sign of recovery; making it more important than ever for people to prioritise mental health and seek out activities that boost their wellbeing.

 

In today’s fast-paced work environment, finding time for exercise and movement can feel like a challenge — which is why both creativity and commitment is key. Finding different ways and opportunities to move throughout the workday, and creating daily habits that stick, is not only possible but essential for prioritising our mental health.

Here are 7 creative ideas for incorporating movement into your workday:

1.  Deskercises: With a little creativity our workstations can be transformed into mini gyms, allowing for simple exercises that can be done around our laptops and computers. Try chair squats, desk push-ups, or leg lifts while seated to get your blood flowing and muscles engaged without leaving your workspace.

Earlier this year, ITN Business hosted a panel discussion with World Cancer Research Fund, where leading experts shared insights on incidental exercise or ‘exercise snacking’, for cancer prevention.

Take a watch below

Approved by World Cancer Research Fund

2. Walking meetings: As the weather warms up, try to take more of your work day outside with walking meetings. These provide great opportunities for movement, while fostering creativity, stimulating better conversations, and boosting productivity. If your team works remotely, you can still host virtual walking meetings with a few improvisations.

3. Pomodoro breaks: Adopt the Pomodoro Technique — a time management method where you break your work into intervals. For example, you might work on a project for 25 minutes, take a 5-10 minute break, then repeat three or four times before taking a longer, 20-30 minute break. Use these breaks to stretch, take a quick walk, or do a few yoga poses to recharge your body and mind. Use a Pomodora timer to stay focused and fully engaged on your tasks.

4. Staircase workouts: Turn staircases into a fitness opportunity. Challenge yourself to walk up escalators (when travelling on the Underground, for example); take the stairs instead of an elevator in the office; or use the stairs at home for a quick burst of cardio between tasks.

5. Fitness challenges: Spice up your office culture by organising fitness challenges or competitions. Whether it’s a step challenge, plank challenge, or weekly fitness bingo, creating a sense of camaraderie and friendly competition can motivate everyone to prioritise movement.

Last year, ITN Business embraced this with a ‘Walk to Dubai’ challenge, where the team made the decision to walk, run, swim or cycle from London to Dubai Expo Centre — virtually —  in time for the launch of our Sustainable Solutions Towards Net Zero programme on the 29th November. (Senior Producer Alex Annett dominated the leaderboard throughout — you can read his story here.)

6. Lunchtime activities: Instead of eating lunch at your desk, use your lunch break to engage in physical activities. Whether it’s going for a brisk walk, joining a fitness class, or practising mindfulness in a nearby park, make the most of your lunch hour to nourish both your body and mind.

7. Desk yoga: Simple stretches and poses like seated twists, forward folds, and neck rolls can help relieve tension, improve posture, and promote relaxation throughout the work day — it all counts as movement.

Make movement non-negotiable

Incorporating movement into your workday doesn’t have to be time-consuming; find what works best for you and make movement a non-negotiable part of your daily routine. Scheduling it into your calendar can help make it feel more validated in your mind.

Creating new habits isn’t easy, but it’s all about starting small and being consistent. Set small goals that are realistic and achievable, and acknowledge the completion of that new habit each day through praise and rewards. As James Clear, the author of best-selling Atomic Habits explains in his book, “If you want to master a habit, the key is to start with repetition, not perfection.”

Find the fun

Moving more doesn’t have to mean going for a run or to the gym. Stick to activities you genuinely enjoy and make you feel good; whether it’s dancing, skipping, or busting out martial arts moves. When you look forward to your activity, you’re more likely to stay motivated and consistent in your routine.

Pay attention to how exercise makes you feel, both physically and mentally. Notice the immediate benefits of increased energy, improved mood, and reduced stress after a workout. By tuning into these positive effects, you’ll be more motivated to continue.

“A handful of problems arise when you spend too much time thinking about your goals and not enough time designing your systems.” ~ James Clear

 

Our upcoming programme, ‘The Future of Work’

For business and individuals to thrive it is critical for leaders and their HR professionals to be able to understand what the future of work might look like for individuals and the organisations where they work.

Having a perspective on how workforces and workplaces can prepare for changes that are inevitable will enable HR leaders and their teams to cultivate success. In ‘The Future of Work: People, Culture and Tech, ITN Business will showcase how HR professionals can stay ahead of the curve and adapt to the latest developments across the employment field.

There are commercial opportunities for leading organisations to be featured in the programme and spearhead their own news item. If your organisation wants to share what you stand for and be part of this important conversation, please contact ITN Business’ Programming Directors Charlotte Lenman and James Salver.