Lunchtime Lift

Sunday, September 1, 2013 - 10:15

Keeping active at work is good for your health and your business, writes Hannah Flannery

Sure, your left over chicken curry may be more appealing than a midday workout, but for the many Australians at desk jobs sitting for up to eight hours a day, it's a good idea to get up and move, especially if your lunch break is the only opportunity.

According to research from the American College of Cardiology and the Pennington Biomedical Research Centre, we're greatly increasing the risk of bowel cancer, heart disease, obesity and diabetes by remaining at our desks for hours without breaking for exercise.

Dr Angus Pyke, spokesperson of the Chiropractor's Association of Australia, says there is no safe way to sit for long periods of time.

"Sitting for your spine is worse than sugar for your teeth. We are designed to move, and move often," he says.

The lunchtime workout means that if you crave that extra sleep in each morning, you don't need to deprive yourself, nor miss out on family time in the evening.

Research conducted in June 2011 by The Brain Sciences Institute at Swinburne University suggests that incorporating exercise into the working day makes you more productive and fast-thinking, improves mood, reduces stress levels and enhances working memory, which controls reason, judgment, and decision making.

Midday exercisers agree, saying integrating a workout into their working day boosts energy levels and alleviates stress.

Dr Richard Telford, Associate Professor of Health at the Australian National University, says: "People who schedule time for exercise, whether it's early morning or in their lunch break, are usually the ones who can commit to making it a routine part of their day."

It certainly doesn't mean you need to miss out on lunch and there's no reason to exercise on an empty stomach. "It's best to eat about one or two hours before exercise."

Lunchtime exercisers say getting active at midday gives you a satisfying lift and the energy you need to power through the afternoon.

So what sort of exercise that fits into a lunch hour is most suitable for your working week?

If you have the opportunity to indulge in a full hour of fitness and you want something new, you could try hot yoga (sometimes called Bikrim). Studios are intentionally heated above 32C, which is ideal for flushing toxins from the body while enhancing flexibility and building core strength.

A typical hot yoga class will include a cardiovascular workout that strengthens and stretches your muscles.

Regular yogis say their practice reduces anxiety and even helps them sleep better.

There are an abundance of yoga styles, both hot and not, being taught and practised in Australia today. If you're a new yogi, it's essential to check which style class you've signed up for. Although all the styles are based on the same physical postures (called poses) the classes can vary dramatically in intensity and heat.

If venturing too far away from your workplace is not an option and time is of the essence, then perhaps physical activity organised by the workplace is more accessible to managers and their staff. There are some very impressive models out there, where staff are improving their personal fitness, their energy levels and interacting with colleagues in a relaxed setting.

The bottom line is, if you encourage staff to engage in activity by establishing dedicated exercise time, it's ultimately good for business. You'll be investing in the health of staff, enhancing their productivity and developing a culture of good moods.