How To Stay Active During the Work Week

Discover important tips on how to stay active during the work week.

Physical activity is essential for both mental and physical health. But, many individuals struggle to carve time into their week for physical activity. According to Statistics Canada, Canadian adults were sedentary, on average, for 9.8 hours per day with only one in two Canadian adults aged 18 to 79 meeting the most recent recommended target of accumulating at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity (MVPA). 

We spoke to Ylan Hoang, a Registered Kinesiologist who is part of the Inkblot network of life and health coaches, on the importance of staying active and how modern workers can incorporate more activity into their lifestyle.

How much physical activity is recommended? 

The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology recommends that individuals meet at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) every week — but what exactly does that mean? 

Moderate-intensity physical activity is any activity that allows you to work hard enough to break a sweat and raise your heart rate by about 50-60 percent of your maximum heart rate. Some examples include brisk walking, dancing, vacuuming, washing windows, light bicycling, and gardening. Alternatively, vigorous-intensity activity is any activity that produces large increases in heart rate — around 70-85 per cent increase of your maximum heart rate. 

Hoang explains that the perception that physical activity is only 90 minutes of vigorous activity keeps people from trying to increase their activity level. This definition makes staying active more accessible by adding the distinction that 150 minutes of activity can be accumulated over the week. This includes your time cleaning the house or walking to the grocery store.

The benefits of physical activity 

“The human body is designed to move and is carved by movement,” explains Hoang. For instance, the spine has an S-curvature that forms when an infant starts crawling, walking and lifting their head. Meanwhile, work can force us to be sedentary and inactive for long periods. The body is smart and adapts to our current range of motion. For instance, if someone is a desk worker and is always looking down at a screen, they might develop a more prominent curve in their upper back. 

Hoang suggests that having a more comprehensive range of motion daily has multiple benefits, including more optimal health, less pain, and reduced tension in the body. She also explains that physical activity can have tremendous benefits for mental health. Firstly, it releases endorphins, a hormone that helps people feel good, manage stress and reduce anxiety. It can also boost confidence levels by assisting individuals in appreciating what their body can do, despite any doubts or fears they may have had in their abilities. Hoang explains that achieving a manageable fitness goal can give you the confidence to help you face other challenges with more optimism. Physical activity builds trust within yourself and a feeling of independence and is also a crucial part of living a happy and healthy life. 

8 tips to build a more active lifestyle

1. Start small

While increasing physical activity can seem like a daunting task, Hoang explains that it doesn't have to be difficult. Her main suggestion is to “start where you are” by determining your baseline physical activity rate and adding one additional activity. Once you make small changes, create a virtuous cycle where you feel more empowered and confident to make larger changes that help you feel better. Over time you can continue adding more activities or increasing your physical activity's intensity.

For instance, if you are new to exercise, try incorporating short daily walks into your schedule. Walking has been proven to have significant health benefits for muscle mass, cardiovascular health and mental health. Hoang suggests planning time away from your desk to take a short 10-20 minute walk during your lunch break. Alternatively, doing chair stretches can get your blood flowing and limit your sedentary time. 

3. Do activities you enjoy

Having a healthy relationship with fitness is crucial to create lasting change. Make it easy for yourself by doing activities you enjoy. For instance, if you love to dance, start your morning by dancing to your favourite song or joining a Zumba class. If you enjoy spending time in nature, consider adding a few more minutes weekly for a light jog in the park. This could also mean making physical activity a social activity by involving your friends and family. Having planned activities with friends can help you stay accountable on days where motivation is low and also makes physical activity more enjoyable. 

4. Schedule physical activity into your calendar and habit stack

To stay accountable, it can be helpful to schedule time in your calendar to be active or do a workout video. Hoang recommends habit stacking, which involves attaching the new habit you are trying to cultivate to a preexisting habit you already have. For instance, if you always watch the 9 o’clock news, exercise while watching. This can be as simple as jumping jacks, squats, or even jogging on the spot. 

5. Create SMART goals

The best goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). Oftentimes people set goals for themselves that are too broad and all-encompassing, such as ‘becoming fit’ and ‘going to the gym more.’ But, Hoang explains that these goals do not set you up for success. Instead, she recommends breaking down your goals into smaller, more specific, measurable and achievable goals. If you want to become more active, start with a goal to go on a short 10-minute brisk walk at lunch every day. Once you have achieved this more simple goal, you can build upon it to include a workout once a week. It is important to specify the duration of the activity, the time it will take place, and how often it will take place to make your goal as easy to follow as possible. 

6. Reflect on your progress and aim for consistency over perfection

Reflection is essential to continuing to develop positive habits and staying active. Once you have measurable goals, take time each month to assess your progress and how far you have come. This will motivate you to continue and provide the confidence needed to add more physical activity to your week. Also, Hoang explains that the most important goal to reach is consistency. Trying to push yourself to do only difficult, tiring and complex workouts requires high motivation levels and creates an idea that working out must be difficult. Instead, she suggests a more approachable method of staying active by adding enjoyable activities to your daily life. Once you have built a physical activity routine, you are more likely to make larger changes in the future.  

7. Reach out to a specialist

If you are still struggling with incorporating physical activity into your schedule, finding motivation, or don’t know where to start, consider reaching out to a specialist for help. Building new fitness habits can be difficult, especially if you are new to physical activity. Enlisting in the help of a kinesiologist or personal trainer will help with accountability and motivation. Also, these specialists will work with you to create physical activity goals according to your unique needs and provide a roadmap for achieving those goals. 

Promoting Physical Activity at Work

There are many things employees and organizations can do to promote physical activity in the workplace. Increased physical activity is tied to better stress management, a more productive workforce, and a more positive work environment, making it an essential priority at work. Hoang suggests advocating for a space dedicated to mind and body wellness, access to standing tables, and a wellness week to get the whole organization involved in physical activity. 

She also recommends that organizations take a top-down approach when motivating their workforce to be more active. This means having team fitness activities and investing in employee wellness packages, including access to a physical gym, training or classes — online or in-person. Hoang notes that “what works for one person does not work for another.” Therefore, she recommends that organizations have variety in what they offer to get a diverse workforce more active. This could include gym memberships, access to online workout classes, and sports club memberships. 

Staying active helps you live and feel better

Staying active is an important priority to ensure that we can live and feel better. Small increases in physical activity, even if a lower-impact activity like walking, can be highly beneficial. While initially, becoming more active can sound like a daunting task, Hoang explains that starting easy with specific, measurable and time-bound goals and often reflecting on your progress can help you build a more active lifestyle over time. 

If you are struggling with staying active, lean on your Inkblot EAP for additional support. At Inkblot, we believe in holistic mental health support. We offer Counselling and Advisory Services, including lifestyle, health and nutrition coaching. To access your advisory services, go to your Inkblot dashboard, choose the “Advisory Services” section, and get connected with the support best suited to your needs.

Sanskriti Ravi

Associate Content Marketer

Ylan Hoang

Ylan Hoang is a Registered Kinesiologist, with certifications in Fascial Stretch Therapy, Soft Tissue Release and is currently a student in acupuncture. Her approach revolves around a holistic view of the human body - which is designed to move. With proper training, programming, and the appropriate manual therapy, she helps her clients MOVE WELL. By working with individuals to provide catered support, she helps them move more efficiently, become stronger, reduce pain and increase their confidence.