Before the COVID-19 pandemic, only around one in eight adults worked from home in Great Britain. A survey by The Office of National Statistics reports that in early 2023, 40 per cent of adults reported working from home at some point in the previous seven days. Whether it’s working full time from home or a hybrid of home and workplace, there’s no doubt that our work patterns have changed. And with that change in habits, there comes a change in lifestyle. This may be positive, with less commuting time and more flexibility in working hours giving more options to go for a run or a walk. However, there’s also negative of it being very easy to spend an entire day at your computer, hardly moving and dramatically increasing the amount of time you spend sitting.  

Sitting time and ‘midlife spread’ 

Reducing our sedentary time is an important part of looking after our health and lowering our risk of many major diseases. A change in lifestyle, including increased sedentary time is an important reason why women tend to gain weight and have increased fat storage in midlife, around the menopause. Sometimes these changes are so subtle you don’t notice them. If you’re struggling with this, have a think back to your life ten years ago and how it differs from now. You will probably find that you live differently. Being less sedentary will help you to maintain a healthy weight and body composition. It really is a powerful (and easy) thing you can do for your health. Have a read of my blog, ‘A Simple way for Runners to Improve Their Health’ to find out more. 

I now work from home 90 per cent of the time. I love it. I love my house and enjoy spending time in it, I work well there. I have however found that I have to make an effort to be active during my working day. I don’t have colleagues to walk over to talk to, a coffee room to visit and I don’t need to nip out to get a sandwich at lunch time. I don’t have a commute, there’s no stroll to the bus stop, no crammed train to stand on and no brisk ‘late for work’ walk. So, whilst I’m happier, I’m aware there’s a risk I may not be healthier. I’m in perimenopause myself and have noticed my body composition changing. I’m definitely storing more fat around my middle. I know I can’t blame this entirely on my changing hormone levels and lifestyle changes are crucial to manage this. 

Here are my top tips to be more active when you work from home 

  1. Set a ‘move’ reminder.  Time whizzes by when you’re engrossed in work. A couple of hours can pass and you haven’t moved an inch. Use watches, phone apps and screen reminders to prompt you to move. There’s no clear rule as to exactly how long it’s ‘safe’ to sit for but the current advice is to move around for a couple of minutes every 20 to 30 minutes. We know that the body’s metabolism is affected the longer we sit, it effectively switches into storage mode, with our risk of disease, particularly type 2 diabetes, growing with increased sedentary time. You only need to stand and move around for a couple of minutes to help negate this. 
  1. Drink lots.  Don’t sit with a jug of water at your desk, use a small glass, that needs frequent refilling, even a short stand up and move to the tap is beneficial. Making a tea or coffee is the perfect opportunity to visit the kettle but whilst it’s boiling, don’t go and sit back down, use that couple of minutes to do some squats or press-ups against the kitchen counter. This might seem ridiculous but if you have three trips to the kettle in the day and you do 20 squats each time, you’ll have done 60 by the end of the day and 300 by the end of the week! That’s a serious number and will help to strengthen those glutes which weaken as we sit. 
  1. Choose your loo.  There’s a downstairs toilet right next to my kitchen where I usually work but by simply opting to use the upstairs one, I’m adding a couple of stair climbs into my day. If you run up rather than walk, then that’s an added bonus of increased intensity activity too. Of course, the more you follow tip number 2, the more you’ll need tip number 3 – winning! 
  1. Seek out moving tasks.  How many of your daily jobs actually need to be done whilst stationary?  If you’re on the phone it’s easy to walk around the room and chat. I managed to do a whole conference call on my exercise bike – with my video turned off. Admittedly I had to go fairly slowly so I wasn’t too out of breath when I unmuted my microphone to speak, but it was 45 minutes of gentle cycling which is so much better than nothing. If you’re planning and brainstorming, try doing this whilst out for a walk, you can use the voice recorder on your phone to keep a note of your ideas. A study by Stanford found we are more creative when we’re on the move and it’s the movement itself and not the environment which was the main driver for this.   
  1. Stand at every opportunity.  Consider getting a standing desk, there are lots of reasonably priced ones available now. I put a large shoe box on my kitchen unit (glamorous!) and placing my laptop on top of that puts it at just the right height for me to have a good working posture. At first you might feel that you can’t focus on your work standing up and need to sit down to concentrate but it does get easier with practice. It’s easy to answer emails or do conference call and phone calls standing up. Do make sure you have good standing posture and I recommend slowly building up the time you spend standing. Don’t go straight into an eight hour day of standing work if you aren’t used to it; you’ll just get back ache! Also make sure that you don’t stand perfectly still, move around  bit, stand on one leg and stretch occasionally.  
  1. Count your steps and walk briskly. The step counter on your phone can be a good indicator of your behaviour. It’s just a little reminder that you need to think about moving more every day. The 10,000 steps a day guideline wasn’t actually based on any evidence but studies since then have proved it to be about right. A recent study published this year in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that as few as 2,200 steps per day lowered your risk of cardiovascular disease but the optimum to reduce this and your risk of dying from any cause was 9000 to 10,500 steps per day A similar study published by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that 8,800 steps a day is the optimum for reducing risk of death from any cause and as few as 2,800 steps can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. Brisk walking is even better than slow walking so if you’re pushed for time on a busy day,  just squeeze in a short but fast walk. Short sharp walks are also ideal to help you concentrate, boost productivity and free up some headspace. Five minutes out and five minutes back, try it! 

The key is to realise that something is better than nothing and that all these little bits of movement add up. Over one day they might not seem like much but over a week, a month, a year, ten years, they will most certainly make a difference to your health. Working from home suits me and I feel fortunate to be able to do it but I know I need to work on creating good habits for it to be good for me in the long term and to keep me healthy through the menopause too.  

I would love to hear how you find home working. Do you struggle to be active or have you found it makes it easier for you? Do you have any tips to share? Let me know in the comments or on social media.  

Featured image:  StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

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