Healthy Living in the North

Sit less and move more for a healthier workplace

In honour of Healthy Workplace Month, I want to encourage you to take a good look at your workplace. So, what does a healthy workplace look or feel like? It could include things like:

  • The physical environment being set up to support movement, interaction, and activity.
    • Meeting spaces that are conducive to standing and stretching.
    • Bicycle storage and changing/showering facilities.
    • Sit/stand workstations in offices.
  • The social environment and workplace culture making employees feel valued and supported to pursue wellness inside and outside of work.
    • Flexibility in schedules.
    • Lunch or coffee time walking groups.
    • Workplace wellness challenges and incentives.
    • Access to programs and activities onsite, nearby, and/or at discounted rates.

Why is it important to foster and support employees to be healthy? Healthier employees tend to display:

  • Improved productivity.
  • Increased job satisfaction.
  • Decreased absenteeism (sick time, injuries, recovery time, etc.).

We know that, in theory, moving more and sitting less is better for you; however, today’s culture of convenience and constantly advancing technology has, in many cases, removed the need for physical movement at work and during leisure time. We literally only need to lift a finger (okay, maybe a few fingers) to connect with a colleague via email; that the colleague is sitting mere steps away rarely stops us from taking the “instant” route. We petition to have office printers moved closer to our desks in the name of increased efficiency and time savings when, in reality, we should be moving them further away to allow for more frequent breaks from sitting and staring at screens.

According to the latest Canadian Health Measures Survey, approximately one in five Canadian adults are meeting the current physical activity guidelines. Considering over sixty percent of British Columbians are members of the workforce, and most workers are spending a great deal of their waking hours either at or getting to and from their jobs, doesn’t it just make sense to target the workplace when looking to increase physical activity and overall wellness?

Even those who are managing to achieve the recommended amount of physical activity outside of their working hours are not immune to the health risks associated with excess sitting while at work.

Workplace wellness sometimes means stepping out of the office!

What can you do to help make your workplace healthier? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • The next time you organize or attend a meeting, why not either suggest a walking meeting?
  • If a walking meeting isn’t possible, start the meeting off by giving (or seeking) permission for all attendees to feel free to stand, stretch, and/or move around the room as they feel the need. Many people don’t feel comfortable to do this for fear of appearing disrespectful or distracted, when in reality it will likely lead to improved attention and focus.
  • Request or initiate wellness programs (check out ParticipACTION’s) and/or activities with your colleagues (i.e. walks during your breaks, organize or sign up for corporate recreation/sport teams or events, activity challenges, etc.). For extra fun and competition, open up your challenge to other workplaces.

Being active is usually far more fun with others, so don’t disregard the value of camaraderie and social support networks as you strive to make your workplace healthier. Having positive influences and relationships make going to work a far more enjoyable and rewarding experience, and I guarantee the benefits will extend far beyond your workday.

Send us photos of your workplace wellness activities; we’d love to see what makes your workplace a healthy one!

For inspiration to get going, check out this Healthy Activity Ideas List from the Healthy Workplace Month website.

Gloria Fox

About Gloria Fox

Gloria Fox is the Regional Physical Activity Lead for Northern Health’s Population Health team. She is a graduate of the University of Alberta’s faculty of PE & Recreation, and until beginning this role has spent most of her career working as a Recreation Therapist with NH. She has a passion for helping others pursue an optimal leisure lifestyle and quality of life at all stages of their lives. In order to maintain her own health (and sanity), Gloria enjoys many outdoor activities, including hiking, camping, canoeing, and cycling, to name a few. She is a self-proclaimed foodie and her life’s ambition is to see as much of the world as possible.


Getting off the couch

We want to see more empty couches!

We want to see more empty couches! Remember, every move counts!

We are all living increasingly busier lives, with work and family commitments taking up more and more of our time. After a long day of work, veggin’ out in front of a TV screen is usually the most attractive option. Since September is the Healthy Living Challenge month, I thought that I would try to use some of the key principles found in the Sedentary and Physical Inactivity position paper, which outlines some important points to help people thinking about increasing their physical activity during the day. I want to share with you two important principles that the position outlines:

  • Consider how ready you are for activity right now. Starting with what is comfortable now, increase either how long you’re active or how hard you work, as long as you are comfortable.
  • Set incremental, SMART goals (SMART goals are Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, and are Time-bound); set a ultimate or long-term goal.

With this in mind, in September, I am going to use the gradual approach and engage in activities that interest me like golfing, fishing, and playing tennis. Over the course of the month I will gradually increase my activity levels.

It is important to note that getting active doesn’t necessarily mean buying a golf course membership, or purchasing expensive equipment – you just need to begin to replace inactive time with active time! I think if we all live under the principle that every move counts, we can find ways to increase activity and incorporate more movement throughout our day in a way that works for us and our individual lifestyles. When it comes to being active, there are many choices and in this case, being an individual is good; one size doesn’t fit all. Find what works best for you! Later this month, my colleagues will demonstrate in a blog post how you can incorporate movement in the office and during meetings.

Stay tuned this week when I post my progress increasing my activity levels by doing the things that interest me. I also encourage you to learn more about all of our guidelines for living a healthier life.

Brandon Grant

About Brandon Grant

As the NH men’s health coordinator, Brandon Grant travels across the Northern Health region speaking with community members about the health issues men face and what we can do to improve men’s health. He has worked with a variety of community-based organizations, including the Nawican Friendship Centre and the Northern Family Health Society, and holds two master’s degrees, one in social work and one in public administration. To stay active, Brandon enjoys playing golf and tennis, and whenever possible, visits tropical destinations to go snorkeling. (Brandon no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)