Move More This Winter!
It’s that time of year again. The days are getting shorter and colder, and going outside to exercise in New Hampshire takes more effort and increased motivation. Granite Staters are not alone; almost 60 percent of adults report being less active during the winter months, according to the National Recreation and Park Association. Cold temperatures and less sunlight may make you want to curl up under the covers for longer, but staying active is just as important to physical and mental health in winter as at other times of the year.
Physical activity can help you sleep better, reduce anxiety, improve your balance, lower your risk of type 2 diabetes and many kinds of cancer, strengthen bones and muscles, lower blood pressure, maintain or lose weight, and keep your mind sharp – all while lifting your spirits through those magical endorphins (“feel-good chemicals”) released when you exercise. Recent research suggests physical activity may also help boost your immune function, which is really important during the winter months!
How Much Exercise Is Enough?
To stay healthy, adults should try to do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS). Moderate intensity aerobic activity is anything that gets your heart beating faster such as walking, swimming, biking, skiing, sledding or ice skating. It all counts, and you don’t have to exercise for hours at a time. Getting up and walking for five or 10 minutes a few times during the day can make a real difference. Two days a week of muscle-strengthening activities such as push-ups, squats, using resistance bands or hand weights are also important.
Help Your Employees Move More – and Improve Your Workplace Culture!
Here are some ways to help you and your employees move more during the workday – plus really good reasons you may want to.
- Set the right example. Employees often neglect to take breaks during the workday, which can lead to faster burnout and higher stress levels, but they may be more likely to do it if their supervisor takes regular breaks and encourages them to take breaks, too. Stepping away from work for a few minutes can increase employee productivity, job satisfaction, mental health and well-being, and help them be more engaged in their work. Getting up and walking around the building for even five minutes at a time can have health benefits too, according to the DHHS. Some research indicates that taking breaks to get up and move can also increase creativity, promote healthy habits, and make employees feel more valued by their organization and supervisor.
- Keep your employees informed about the benefits available under their health plan to help them stay healthy and fit. For example, employers that offer HealthTrust medical coverage can remind their employees about the resources available through the Slice of Life wellness program, including online challenges, activity trackers, daily inspirational cards to motivate them, and the expertise and support of a health coach.
- Consider scheduling walking meetings when possible. Walk around your building outside if there is no snow or ice or add five or 10 minutes to a meeting to walk and talk inside the building before you settle in to your meeting room.
- Organize a workplace walking challenge. Create an indoor walking path or offer bonus points to participants who walk up and down stairs. At the end of the challenge, the person with the highest number of steps could win a prize – perhaps a fitness tracker, resistance bands, hand weights, a stability ball or other fitness device they can use at work or at home.
- Offer an exercise class at your worksite before work, during lunch, or at the end of the workday.
- Work together with local businesses to provide discounts for winter activities such as snow tubing, ice skating, snow-shoeing or skiing. Such discounts can help motivate your employees to exercise on the weekends, too!
- Provide flyers, brochures or other information about activities available at your local community center or gym. Help your employees stay informed about the kinds of activities available which typically range from aerobics and yoga classes to badminton and basketball.
Be sure to remind your employees always to consult their medical provider before beginning any exercise program. Letting your employees know that their health and safety is a top priority helps to make them feel valued at work and may help you foster a happier, more productive workplace.
Katrina Manning is a HealthTrust Wellness Advisor.
Disclaimer: This content is intended to be informational and does not constitute professional health advice or an endorsement of the services or resources mentioned.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao/features/stay-active-this-winter/index.html
- National Recreation and Park Association: https://www.nrpa.org/publications-research/park-pulse/do-not-let-your-activity-level-dip-with-the-temperatures/
- S. Department of Health & Human Services: https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf#page=56
- American Council on Exercise: https://www.acefitness.org/about-ace/our-efforts/blog/7911/how-to-squeeze-in-exercise-during-work/
- Michigan State University: https://workplace.msu.edu/breaks-during-the-workday/
- Heart and Stroke Foundation: https://www.heartandstroke.ca/articles/11-ways-to-stay-active-in-winter