Physical activity is a natural medicine to stave off illness and disease, and regular exercise leads to a sense of empowerment. To move isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity, a basic, biological drive as essential to your health as sleep or connection or food. Let the following ideas move you, your coworkers and your family during July and beyond.
What constitutes a good life? First and foremost, it’s a body that works. The best way to build and maintain a body that works is to move every day. If we can do that, we’ll be better positioned to get the most out of our lives.
– Rick Stollmeyer, CEO & co-founder, MINDBODY
We Are Designed to Move
Just watch a healthy toddler. She touches her toes, crawls, rolls—sometimes it seems as if she can’t sit still. Through the simple act of moving, she’s creating new neural connections, building capabilities in mind and body and discovering how she fits in the world. Movement will facilitate this human capacity throughout her lifetime.
Integrated into our day, movement helps us feel more energized, engaged and effective. Physical activity enhances neurogenesis (the birth of new neural connections) and neuroplasticity (the capacity of the brain to change and rewire itself) and is a “cognitive candy” that fuels mental agility, decision-making and learning, and other skills for healthy brain performance and aging. It improves our moods; influences our body image and self-esteem; and reduces our stress, depression and anxiety. It is linked with better motor skills, physical health, immune system functioning, gut health, sleep, and outcomes for a host of diseases. According to an extensive Lancet study of 1.2 million people, physical activity is even more important to our mental health than money.
Elevate Your Workplace
Physical activity elevates creativity, engagement and productivity at work and is vital to a culture of wellness. The comprehensive “Designed to Move” report also ties physical activity with gender equality, the ability to bridge differences, trust, teamwork, job success, higher morale, civic participation and fun, among many other pathways vital to organizational wellbeing and success.
Physical activity is a core part of our journey to evolve as integrated human beings, too. As highlighted by the United Nations, participation in sports builds our skills to solve problems, communicate, negotiate, resolve conflicts, manage interpersonal relationships, operate with self-awareness, and cope effectively with our emotions and stresses—not only great life skills but also the psychological essentials of global citizenship. The activity of play frees the imagination, talents and learning of children, preparing them to be the well-functioning adults we need in our workplaces and communities. Plus, movement of all types (extreme sports, for example) can connect us with higher states of consciousness, from the self-transcending experience of awe and bliss we have personally to our emotional synchrony and shared flow with others.
So, the question is: How do we make physical activity an affordable, accessible, scalable strategy for cultivating organizations where people and teams thrive?
Let These Actions Move You—and Your Coworkers
The famous physicist Albert Einstein once said, “Nothing happens until something moves.” As a leader, experiment with these actions and make movement part of your leadership toolkit and workplace culture:
- Do an energy scan. Notice your energy level without judging it. Is your energy too low or too high? Are you fatigued or too wound up? Are signs of tension—for instance, a headache, tight shoulders, back soreness, constriction across your chest—draining you? Before you meet with your customer, employee, partner or boss, simple movements, such as conscious breaths and stretches or a 10-minute walk outdoors, could help you rightsize your energy and de-stress. Coach your team to do energy scans, too.
- Take a stand. Hold your next phone call or team meeting standing up. Standing even a few more minutes a day tones muscles, improves posture, increases blood flow, and burns calories. Plus, it can help you approach a person or situation from literally a new perspective.
- Stretch and play for productivity. Start your next meeting or town hall with two minutes of movement. Shoulder rolls, toe lifts, knee bends, wrist and ankle circles, a fake yawn—these are great ways to get you and your colleagues focused, connected, and ready for the work at hand. Take this up a notch by starting the meeting with play—experiment with a five-minute dance-off, balloon toss, or any fun activity that gets people moving their bodies and, as a result, stimulates creativity and positive connection.
- Meet on the move. Hold brainstorming sessions and informal discussions while walking side by side or as a group. Teams that walk together—undistracted by cell phones—often experience greater concentration, camaraderie, problem-solving and productivity as well as lower stress.
- Move together for 30 days. Ask people in your team or organization to commit to a physical activity every day for one month, based on each person’s motivations and abilities. Walking, dancing, Pilates, running, yoga, cycling, hiking, rock climbing, swimming, weight training, tai chi, tennis, rowing, team sports, taking the stairs—there is no end to the possibilities! Better yet, build a culture of care and support by requesting colleagues to help each other stay accountable for 30 days of focused exercise. At month’s end, check in with your team: What effects did physical activity have on each person as well as your organization or team?
- Make exercise a force for good. Organize teams at work to plant trees through the Million Tree Challenge; help BirdLife International restore bird habitats; participate in an athletic fundraising event with the World Wildlife Fund; or plog, a growing swell of runners worldwide who pick up trash while jogging. Or, encourage your organization to engage in sustainable physical activity to reduce your environmental footprint—for example, motivate your workforce to use active transportation, such as walking or biking, whenever possible.
Share Your Commitment
Post a photo of how you’re moving this month and on the day of the full moon, Tuesday, July 16, with #wellnessmoonshot. We’ll spread your inspiration to others!
RESOURCES TO SUPPORT YOU
- Mental Wellness: Pathways, Evidence and Horizons Whitepaper, Mental Wellness GWI Initiative
- Wellness at Work GWI Initiative
- First 1000 Days GWI Initiative
- Supporting UN 17 Sustainable Development Goals GWI Initiative
- Wellness Evidence Database
- Well Fashion – Way Beyond Athleisure, 2019 Global Wellness Trends Report
- If you want your kid to get a good job, let them play more, Quartz
- Physical Activity in the Workplace; A Guide for Employers, The Institute for Health and Productivity Studies, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health