By Dale Isip

Medical studies have shown that exercise can improve mental health, from increasing cognitive abilities and self-esteem, to lowering rates of stress, anxiety, and depression. According to current guidelines, healthy adults should get at least 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate-intensity physical activity a week.

This, however, may be a bit of a challenge in the office. As part of National Mental Health Awareness Month, here are some ideas on how to increase your levels of physical activity at work. As always, please consult with your physician before starting any exercise program.

Activity Frequency

Full-time workers can spend over 8 hours working in-office a day – with 43.2 percent of that time, on average, in a seated position. This sedentary time may increase depending on the profession, reducing the chances for workers to get adequate amounts of physical activity.

To increase this physical activity, you might want to ask your employer about incorporating short 5 to 10-minute activity breaks into the workday. These sessions can range from simple activities that may range from walking around the office at regular intervals, to larger group activities potentially incorporated into meetings.

Basic Activities

Ideally, these activity breaks should be done hourly, but you may just want to strive to avoid prolonged periods of inactivity. You can achieve this by performing some simple basic activities.

A quick walk around the office, for example, can have noticeable effects on your physical and mental health. Studies have shown that short walking sessions can increase one’s creative output. This is because walking may improve divergent thinking – the use of the mind to quickly come up with different ideas around a single topic.

Additionally, walking has been known to relieve stress and promote a state of mental alertness. Walking has also been linked to improving mood, memory, and cognitive abilities.

Office Workouts

For slightly more intense activities, you may also want to ask your employer about group-oriented office workouts. These can include group walking sessions, instructor-led seated exercises, and even moderate activities set to music.

These workouts particularly emphasize group participation, known to improve mental health measurably over solo workouts. Group workouts known as pantomimes, where actions are mimicked without words, may be able to spurn creativity amongst workers.

Staying Safe

Like any exercise, work exercises should be started at an appropriate level for your condition. If you are walking, pay close attention to how you feel and be careful not to overexert yourself.

You can also ask your employer to schedule group activities for slightly more intense exercises. In this case, you may want to consider only large, group-oriented office workouts led by a qualified instructor.

With suitable amounts of in-office exercise, you may be able to improve both physical and mental health. Given this, such physical activity may also assist with how you think and create – keeping your mind healthy and ready for work.