20 May, 2024

The introduction of working from home has been beneficial in many ways. For some of us it has meant being able to spend more time with our families and for others it has saved a small fortune in travel expenses.

However, being stuck at our desks has also eliminated some of the passive exercise that comes from working outside of our homes (for example, walking around the office or going outside for lunch breaks). Not being able to exercise regularly can have a massive impact on your health and increase your risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and various forms of cancer – studies have shown that physical activity can help reduce your risk of breast cancer by around 20%.

Personal trainer Maddy Biddulph started her ‘green exercises’ in her hometown of Oxford after noticing that people working from home were struggling to find the time and motivation to exercise. The classes were an instant hit, with many attendees crediting the sessions for improving their fitness and mental well-being.

Breast Cancer UK sat down with Maddy to find out some of her top tips to help remote workers be more physically active.

Schedule your exercise like a meeting

“Instead of exclusively using your calendar for work meetings, try and use it as a tool for your health journey. Before the week starts, block out spots in your calendar for exercise, in the same way you would for a work call. If you can’t commit to a whole hour of exercise, try 45 minutes and if that’s too long, try 30 minutes. The most important thing is that the meeting forces you to commit some time and also lets your colleagues know you’re unavailable.

If you’re able to get outside, even better! But if not, there are also loads of exercise videos on YouTube that you can follow along to in your home or back garden.”

Take walking meetings

“If you’re working from home, you probably don’t go a day without a meeting. I know I certainly don’t! Next time you’re on a call that doesn’t require you to have your camera on, try going for a walk.

When we wait for the perfect moment in the day to get some fresh air, it’s often the case that the moment won’t arrive. Instead of choosing between a meeting or some light exercise, choose both. In addition to the physical benefits of increasing circulation, and reducing cholesterol, walking has also been proven to help stimulate creative thinking.”

Habit stacking

“As the saying goes, ‘old habits die hard’, but I’d argue that it can be even harder to create new habits. There’s a reason there are so many books on the topic. However, habits are an essential part of disease prevention. If you’re able to make a healthy lifestyle a habit, instead of a conscious choice, it won’t feel like a chore and you’re less likely to forget.

Habit stacking means stacking one habit on top of another. For example, if you normally make a cup of tea or coffee to start your day, spend the five minutes it takes to boil the kettle doing some squats or lunges. Over time, your brain will associate your habit of boiling the kettle with exercise.

This will help you to build exercise into your daily routine in a way that doesn’t feel too overwhelming or take up any time that you usually dedicate to work. It’s a great way to build up consistency!”

Set a reminder for standing breaks

“It’s easy to get buried in your work and lose track of time. All of a sudden it’s 5 O’clock and you realise that you haven’t even stood up to go to the toilet! Try setting a reminder on your phone so you don’t forget to take a standing break.

Studies have shown that sitting for long periods can slow the metabolism. This can affect the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, blood pressure and break down body fat, increasing our risk of type 2 diabetes and various forms of cancer.

Setting a reminder to stand up for about 10 minutes every hour can help to reduce these risks. Standing desks are also a great alternative to being in a hunched-over seating position during the working day.”

Buy a desk treadmill

This one is a little bit expensive but definitely worth the investment if you want to treat yourself. Desk treadmills are a great way to get your steps in if you’re not able to find time to leave the house, or you don’t want to stop your workflow. They’re easy to fold and put away and help you to stay consistent with your exercise goals on the days you can’t make it to the park or gym.

Take our prevention quiz to find out where you are on your journey and receive more useful tips.

Read our fact sheet on physical activity and breast cancer here.

Follow Maddy on Instagram and check out her website for more tips on staying fit whilst working from home.



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