Working from home can affect your health if you don't pay attention to your physical activity levels

Physical activity is key when you work from home


NEW: Follow this link to find your top tips on keeping fit at home during the coronavirus crisis


Are you one of the growing band of people working from home, content in the knowledge that you don’t have to face that soul-destroying commute to and from your workplace? Congratulations if you are, but is working from your kitchen or spare room actually damaging your health because you’re not getting enough physical activity?

According to the Office of National Statistics, the number of people working from home in the UK increased from 2.9 million in 1998 to more than 4 million by 2015. Factor in the rapid rise of remote working and some commentators predict that nearly half of the UK workforce could be working remotely by 2020.

More physical activity, more often

There’s a lot written about the perils of sitting at a desk all day and the need to stay active in the workplace to ward off lifestyle-related health problems, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. However, most this information focuses on physical activity advice for people who have office-based jobs.

You may already be familiar with the key workplace activity messages:

  • Make your commute to and from work more active – whether that’s by cycling or walking (at least some of the way) or simply by making the most of “our friends the stairs” at railway stations.
  • Stand up for at least 2 hours a day – do you really need to sit to read that report or to take that phone call?
  • Make the most of your lunchtimes – an active lunch break can really perk up your afternoon. It can be as simple as going for a 15-minute walk on your way to your skinny latte.
  • Be active even if you’re welded to your chair at times – these great deskercises will help you get micro active.

So far so good, but if your daily commute involves walking from one room to another, you may need to make some specific behaviour changes to help you work towards levels of physical activity that will keep you healthy – whether in terms of 10,000 steps per day or 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity exercise over 5 days (where you can carry on a conversation but need to pause for breath).

The good news is that the latest research in the Journal of the American Heart Association suggests that even small bouts of moderate to vigorous physical activity (as little as 5 minutes) when added together can provide important health benefits.

Physical activity tips for home workers

Because home working often lacks the formal routine of the office environment, for example set lunchtime hours in which to factor in sessions of activity, it can be very easy to neglect the physical side of home life.

To get around this create your own healthy daily routine:

  • Create a ‘commute’ – before you start work, go out for a brisk walk for at least 15 minutes. Take the dog for a walk or your child out to the local park. Walking increases your heart rate, kickstarts your metabolism and helps relieve stress. The ideal way to start your working day.
  • Design your own schedule – it’s very tempting to start early (and stay in your pyjamas) and to work into the late hours. Producing and sticking to a work schedule will help you maintain a healthy work-life balance. It will also give you the time you need to fit home physical activity sessions into your busy schedule.
  • Don’t get too comfortable – set a timer or use your phone to prompt you to stand up at least every hour, have a dance and stretch your entire body. Get out of the house at least once a day so you can take in the scenery, enjoy the sun and breathe in some fresh air.
  • Invest in some simple exercise equipment – for example, resistance bands take up little space and are great alternatives to heavy weights; a stability ball provides an excellent tool to help build strength, balance and stability.
  • Remember, housework counts as exercise – whether you’re mowing the lawn or cleaning the carpets, changes of activity can all add up to your 150 hours a week of moderate exercise.