January 18, 2016 / Published 9:00 AM EST / Liza Chalaidopoulos-Isaacs
The simplicity of stretch
We all know that regular exercise can not only help us fit back into those favourite pants after the holiday, but that physical activity has immeasurable health benefits — from heart disease prevention to increased flexibility. And according to a Leeds Metropolitan University study, our brains also get a workout. “On days when employees visited the gym, their experience at work changed. They reported managing their time more effectively, being more productive, and having smoother interactions with their colleagues. Just as important: They went home feeling more satisfied at the end of the day.”
Melanie Jones, Executive Assistant to SVP Chief Branding and Communications Officer, Charlie Armstrong, has seen it firsthand. As a volunteer yoga instructor at Manulife’s Toronto office, she’s no stranger to the benefits of staying active, especially while at the office. “The class is 45-minutes over the lunch hour and people feel as though they’re starting their weekend early. They can go back to their desks refreshed, rather than run down.” she says.
Along with the full class, Jones also leads a 10-minute stretching session in her department on Wednesday afternoons. This helps to break up the week, and requires less of a time commitment, while retaining many of the benefits. “Nobody gets changed (into workout gear). I’ll lead simple shoulder stretches, or bending and flexing in the legs to get the blood flowing. Generally, I try to incorporate stretches and movements that counter our everyday desk posture,” says Jones. “People are responding well, and walking away refreshed. And while I’m leading the stretches, Natalie Merglesky who works as a communications specialist on the Manulife Branding and Communications team (and who is also a holistic nutritionalist, not to mention, Melanie’s sister!), prepares a healthy snack or energizing tea for everyone to enjoy post-stretch.”
But what if you don’t even have time to leave your desk? Jones suggests the following three things you can do from the comfort of your cube.
Work on your posture while seated by straightening your back and stacking your shoulders directly over top of your hip bones.
Lean forward. Interlace hands behind lower back and bring shoulder blades together. Look down to elongate the stretch.
Slowly lift your right arm up over head. Without twisting the torso, lean the entire upper body over the left, stretching out the right side body. Repeat on the left side.
If you’re not already active, just start in small ways, says Jones. It can be as simple as exercising at your desk, to taking a class designed for your skill level. You just have to show up and give it a try.