Since launching my business, I have been working with professional services companies in Shropshire to try and counteract the effects of sitting at a desk all day on their physical and mental wellbeing.
It’s no coincidence that obesity rates have risen alongside the rise in jobs where people sit down from 9am to 5pm every single weekday. More than 60 per cent of adults are now classed as obese – and we need to take action now to try and reverse this growing trend.
It’s not just about weight, there are so many risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle whether it’s the mental impact of a busy workload and long hours, or feeling so tired and demotivated you don’t actually exercise when you have the chance during weekends and evenings. And of course, there is the impact on wellbeing, with a quarter of us now suffering from mental health issues.
There’s also a big impact from the ‘cake and coffee’ culture – where employees turn to high caffeine and sugar consumption not just for special occasions or meetings, but to get them through the day.
Staff from these companies can really benefit from starting to listening to their bodies more, and understanding the rollercoaster of highs and lows they’re putting themselves through when they rely on a hit of something sweet or caffeine-filled whenever they need a boost of energy.
As well as looking at the types of things we can be eating which are likely to have a more positive impact on our energy levels and overall health, lots of the teams I’ve been working with have also benefitted from mindful eating – stepping away from their desks and really thinking about what they’re consuming and how it’s making them feel.
It’s not about completely removing the things that we enjoy but about re-routing existing thought processes that aren’t serving us effectively, for example the habit of avoiding exercise because it’s time-consuming, to creating a new habit which focus on the benefits and positives — such as having better mental clarity and improved quality of sleep.
By being more mindful of our lifestyles, we can in turn help build up our individual resilience towards stress, which can have an impact on the quality and performance of employees at work. The sedentary lifestyle that many of us now lead, combined with the mental stress of work — particularly for those who in high-pressure roles such as accounting or legal — can worsen the effect of stress on our mind and body, including weakening the immune system, causing high blood pressure, fatigue and causing depression.
Stress can also be the culprit for unintentionally creating unhealthy coping mechanisms, which — over time — can become habit, such as binge-eating or drinking. The professional services firms I’ve been coaching since welLBe launched its 12-week transformational workplace programme have really embraced finding ways to counteract their sedentary jobs – whether it’s walking meetings, supporting each other to reduce alcohol intake, lunchtime workout sessions or simply sharing healthy recipes within their teams.
We get so engrained in our current lifestyles, whether the habits we have now are serving us well or not, that taking that first step to make changes can often be an overwhelming thought – so we push it away and continue as we are. But having the time and space each week to consider how to go about starting new habits (ones which will help you feel stronger, less tired, happier and more focused) can have a really positive impact on your wellbeing.