Deep Care logo white
Deep Care Logo

Why exercise is so important in the workplace

May 28, 2024
Young woman doing a movement exercise at her workplace

In today's working world, many of us spend the majority of the day sitting in front of a computer. However, this sedentary lifestyle can entail considerable health risks. Sitting for too long and being inactive is a risk factor for various ailments and diseases. A new Study According to a study by the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), the risk is even higher when working from home than in the office. In the following, we explain why sufficient movement at work is so important, what risks arise from a lack of movement and how you can ensure more movement in the workplace.

These are the risks of lack of exercise

Too little movement in the workplace can entail considerable health risks. Sitting for too long and a lack of physical activity are closely linked to various health problems. Below are four of the most common risks caused by a lack of physical activity.

1. increased risk of cardiovascular disease

Lack of exercise leads to reduced cardiovascular fitness and increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke. A study by the American Heart Association shows that sitting for too long is significantly associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Source: American Heart Association.

Source: Sitting Time and All-Cause Mortality Risk in 222 497 Australian Adults

2. weight gain and obesity

Prolonged sitting and lack of exercise can lead to a negative energy balance and thus to weight gain and obesity or diabetes. A study in the "Journal of Physical Activity and Health" found that people who sit a lot have a higher risk of obesity.

Source:  Journal of Physical Activity and Health. Sedentary Behaviour and Obesity in Adults: A Systematic Review

3. muscular and skeletal disorders

Chronic lack of exercise can lead to musculoskeletal disorders such as back pain, osteoarthritis, neck tension and joint problems. Research in the "Journal of Occupational Health Psychology" shows that prolonged sitting is associated with increased muscular complaints and back pain. 

Source: Journal of Occupational Health Psychology. Sitting Time and Musculoskeletal Pain: A Longitudinal Study

4. deterioration of mental health

Prolonged sitting and lack of exercise can also have negative effects on mental health, including a higher risk of depression and anxiety. According to a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, lack of exercise may be associated with poorer mental health and a higher risk of depression.

Source:  British Journal of Sports Medicine. Sedentary Behaviour and the Risk of Depression: A Meta-analysis

Employee sits at her desk and holds her back in pain

Benefits of more movement in everyday office life

1. muscle building

Exercise in the office helps to strengthen the muscles. People who sit a lot should make sure they activate their muscles several times a day to prevent muscle loss. Strong muscles support a healthy posture and help you to cope better with the stresses and strains of everyday life.

2. release tension

Sitting for long periods of time often leads to tension, particularly in the neck and shoulder area. This tension can lead to back pain and limited mobility. Regular movement and stretching exercises can relieve such tension and have a positive effect on posture. 

3. prevent or reduce back and neck pain

Back and neck pain are widespread complaints among people with an office job and a lack of exercise. One reason for this is the one-sided strain caused by sitting for long periods of time. You can do something good for your back with various techniques, such as dynamic sitting!

4. avoid unbalanced loads

One-sided strain caused by repetitive movements or prolonged sitting can lead to poor posture and muscular imbalances in the long term. To avoid this, it is important to change your sitting position several times an hour and integrate different movements into your working day. For example, stand up every 30 minutes, stretch and take a few steps.

5. prevent cardiovascular diseases

Sitting for long periods is not only bad for the muscles and musculoskeletal system, but also increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Regular exercise promotes blood circulation and supports the cardiovascular system. Even short bursts of exercise, such as a short walk during your lunch break or taking the stairs instead of the lift, can help to reduce the risk.

6. body and mind stay fit

Regular exercise is important to keep both the body and the mind fit. Exercise activates the muscles, promotes blood circulation and ensures that more oxygen reaches the brain. This in turn increases concentration and mental performance. If you move more often, you will feel more alert, more attentive and better able to concentrate on your tasks. Exercise can also help to reduce stress and improve your general well-being, for example by reducing excess weight and making sport more of a priority.

7. circulation gets going

Sitting for long periods slows down the circulation and can lead to reduced blood flow. This in turn can lead to various health problems such as varicose veins, thrombosis and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Regular exercise gets your circulation going and improves blood circulation. Even short, crisp bursts of exercise where you get up and move around can make a big difference and help to boost your metabolism.

How to stay fit in the office and get more exercise at work: 16 tips for more exercise

Integrating more movement into everyday office life doesn't have to be complicated. Often it is the small changes, that make a big difference. Here are some simple and practical tips to increase your daily activity in the office:

1. change of posture/dynamic sitting

A frequent change of posture helps to relieve the muscles and promote blood circulation. Use an exercise ball or an ergonomic chair to sit dynamically and change your sitting position occasionally. Always make sure you have a good sitting posture to keep your spine healthy and avoid sitting too statically.

2. work standing up from time to time

Standing desks or height-adjustable desks allow you to spend parts of your working day standing up. This reduces the strain of sitting for long periods and promotes better posture. Even if you have an ergonomic office chair, you should occasionally work standing up.

Young woman works at a high table in her home office

3. stand up and move around during phone calls

Phone calls are an ideal opportunity to get up and move around a bit. Walk around the room during the call or do a few stretching exercises. This is a simple way to get more movement in the workplace.

4. circle your head, neck and shoulders approx. every 30 minutes

Make it a habit to do short movement exercises every 30 minutes. Circle your shoulders, head and neck to relieve tension, improve circulation and do something good for your body.

5. plan regular exercise breaks (it is best to set up a reminder), 3-5 minutes per break is sufficient

Plan fixed exercise breaks into your working day. Set reminders on your mobile phone or computer to make sure you don't forget to take these breaks. Just 3-5 minutes of exercise can help to increase concentration and prevent tension.

6. organise your workplace so that you have to get up from time to time (e.g. place wastepaper basket and documents further away)

Set up your workstation so that you have to get up from time to time. Place frequently used objects, such as printers or files, further away so that you can move around from time to time.

7. take every opportunity to get up (go to the printer, etc.)

Take every opportunity to get up. Go to the printer, get yourself a glass of water or speak to a colleague in person instead of writing an e-mail. Your intervertebral discs and your back will thank you for it.

8. stand-up meetings: why not suggest to the team that they hold the meeting standing up?

Stand-up meetings are not only shorter and more efficient, they also encourage movement. Suggest that your team hold meetings standing up to increase concentration and reduce sitting time. 

9. do creative tasks while standing or walking around

Many creative tasks can be done while standing or walking. Use whiteboards or pinboards to visualise ideas while moving around.

10. back to the analogue format: instead of just writing everything down digitally, get up and use the whiteboard or post-its on the wall to plan projects

Work more often with analogue tools such as whiteboards or post-its. This not only encourages creativity, but also forces you to get up and move around and do something good for your body.

11. collegial walks during the lunch break

Arrange to meet up with colleagues for a short walk in the fresh air. This not only promotes exercise, but also social interaction and team spirit. It doesn't always have to be an intensive sports session. Walks can also keep you fit!

12. park further away or get off one stop earlier or come by bike

Park your car a little further away or get off public transport one stop earlier to incorporate extra exercise. If possible, cycle to work. 

13. encourage the team to develop movement rituals together, e.g. short stretching at the end of the meeting

Shared movement rituals promote a sense of community and motivation. Do stretching exercises or other short movement units together at the end of a meeting. Motivate and encourage each other and your team to move more.

14. have a Theraband or small dumbbells under your desk to do a few strengthening exercises in between

Keep a Theraband or small dumbbells handy under your desk. Use these to do simple strengthening exercises in between. Here too, short 3-5 minute routines are completely sufficient.

15. plan active team events or team-building measures

Plan active team events or team-building measures that include exercise. Whether it's hiking together, a sports tournament or a fitness workshop - such activities promote health and team cohesion.

Young woman does exercise at work with Isa

16. ISA at the workplace

ISA is the smart solution for more movement in the office and a healthy, balanced working day. With ISA, you can improve your well-being with AI-supported health coaching that intuitively integrates healthy routines and dynamic sitting into your daily work routine. Fit in the office made easy with ISA!

Conclusion: Movement in the office doesn't have to be complicated!

By integrating these tips and exercises into your daily work routine, you can not only improve your health and well-being, but also increase your productivity and satisfaction at work. Remember: every step counts and even small changes can have a big impact! The good news is: it doesn't have to be complicated or strenuous! Our valuable tips will help you stay fit at work.

This might also interest you

Stay informed ...

DeepDive BGM

Receive our latest monthly blogs and carefully curated articles on workplace prevention.

Stay up to date