Nine ways to exercise for happiness at work or at home

As February’s Weekly Happiness Challenges continue, we continue to count down Jurgen’s 12 ways to be happy.
What was your reaction to the 12 steps when you first saw them?

Be honest now. I’m sure there were some steps that you felt totally comfortable with. Maybe you were even already practicing them and had a bit of an internal “pat on the back” celebration. I’m also pretty sure that there were steps that had you scratching your head. Either because of uncertainty about how to practice them, or because of the apparent effort involved.

Take this week’s focus: Exercise. Exercising for happiness sounds like a lot of work.

What does exercising for happiness even mean?

It can be, but it doesn’t have to be. Exercising for happiness should primarily be fun and enjoyable. That’s the best way to get you to continue exercising.

After seven-plus years of doing fitness with a personal trainer — who by the way got me to continue for two years after my “I’m bored with this” date because he made it fun — I was lucky to find another exercise activity.

Drumming. Taiko drumming to be precise.

Unless you watched the video, you probably won’t immediately think of it as exercise. You’re sitting down after all, right?

Nope. Not with Taiko drumming. Just watch the video and then talk to my legs. I thought they were well trained. Boy, was I wrong.

Fitness was made fun by my personal trainer, but fitness itself was never something I enjoyed. Yes, I enjoyed getting in shape and being able to work with heavier and heavier weights. Still, it always remained an activity I did “because it was good for me.”

Taiko drumming is different. It is now my main exercise activity, but much more importantly, it is one of my main sources of fun and joy! The only thing that will stop me drumming, is being unable to move my arms.

The point of all this: exercise can be, but doesn’t have to a chore. Exercising for happiness certainly shouldn’t be.

Three fun and easy ways to stay active at work

Start by looking for an activity you enjoy that involves physical movement of both your arms and legs, and exercise becomes “fun and games.” Something to enjoy rather than dread. It makes you happy to boot! What more could you want?

So, question to start of this week:

What can you do at work (or around it) that is fun and involves moving both your arms and legs?

Here are some suggestions to get your mind and body moving.

Stay Active at Work Tip #1: Take the stairs.

The obvious one that everybody who has ever tried to lose weight has heard before: take the stairs. Going down should not be a problem. But going up? When you are used to taking the elevator it may be a bit of a challenge, even for people who are pretty well in shape. Nobody says you should take the stairs for all the floors you have to go up.

You can start with a single flight going up and take the elevator for the remaining floors. When you find you can do that without having to catch your breath: add another flight or move faster. I wouldn’t advise doing both at the same time. And have some fun: hop instead of walk, skip one or more steps, “skate” (put your feet at the outer edges of the steps), hop two steps at a time, and – for the really advanced – hop two steps at a time squatting down on each hop.

Stay Active at Work Tip #2: Stand up.

Twist your boss’s arm to get a desk that’s adjustable in height (with the push of a button!) and do your work standing up. Or look around your current office and see what could make do as a stand-up desk.

When you are not used to working standing up, you’ll have to train yourself. Start with half an hour. Work your way up by increasing the duration or shortening the periods that you are sitting down. Again: don’t do both at the same time. There is such a thing as “too much of a good thing,” and standing all the time is just as bad as sitting all the time.

When you have that adjustable desk, you could also get a stationary bike and do your work while pedaling.

Stay Active at Work Tip #3: Just bounce.

Use a yoga ball to sit on. You’ll be amazed at how intense it can be. Sitting up straight is hard work and doing it on a yoga ball even more so. You’ll really need to train yourself to do this. Start with half an hour at a stretch and work your way up as described above.

Using a yoga ball is especially good exercise when you are having back trouble. It may seem counter-intuitive, but the yoga ball makes you use your core stabilizing muscles and that generally helps everyone suffering from backaches that are mostly due to bad posture or muscles that aren’t used enough. And of course you can use the yoga ball for more exercises than just sitting and balancing, like pushups and situps.

Six team exercise tips for collaboration (and maybe some sweat)

Exercising for happiness doesn’t have to be done alone. Bring in your teammates and you all benefit. Not just by growing happier individually, but also by coming together more as a team.

Now we share ways to get moving and do some connecting and team building at the same time.

Team Exercise Tip #1: Get out!

The most obvious: go for a walk outside at lunch time. A bit of fresh air never hurt anybody and will actually increase both your productivity and creativity. No talking about work though!

Team Exercise Tip #2: Meetings on the go.

Have your meetings “on the go.” Especially the one-on-ones. Privacy almost guaranteed. Add the benefits of a bit of fresh air by taking it outside. Have a garden or green space nearby? Take your team meetings to a park bench. A children’s playground could be even more fun, especially if they have a row of seesaws or a swing set.

Team Exercise Tip #3: Kick it around.

Bring a couple of balls to the office and kick them around the corridors whenever you are walking to the coffee machine (or your own preferred poison). Better yet: take them outside during breaks and kick them around the parking lot or wherever you have a bit of room.

Team Exercise Tip #4: Ping pong.

Start an intra- or inter-team table tennis competition. No table tennis table? Be creative and create one from a table or desk using a piece of netting, a couple of clamps (for example clamps for gluing wood), and something to tie the netting to the clamps. Yes, it will be smaller than a proper table tennis table, but that also adds to the challenge. You could also push two desks or tables together. That’ll add a bit of unpredictability when the ball hits the middle of the table. Could be an interesting way to level the playing field a bit between experienced and inexperienced players. A lot of startups offer all the creative power to creative team members to design the ideal table.

Team Exercise Tip #5: Get competitive.

Start any competition that involves moving your arms and legs. Get a mini basketball basket and run a paper-ball tossing competition. With a couple of cones and some makeshift hockey sticks you can run a hockey slalom competition. A bit more sedate: a putting competition. Let your team come up with ideas and you not only have more team collaboration but maybe an obstacle course or Office Olympics!

Team Exercise Tip #6: Just get creative.

At my work we have a staircase that is very broad and although it is only a single floor, is pretty high. Would love to turn it into one of these awesome piano staircases. I’m afraid though that the people working on the floor at the top of the stairs (open plan office) would not be amused for long…

How do you make exercise fun in and out of work? Share your tricks in the comments below or in our dedicated Slack discussion #happiness channel.

I’m an experienced dev engineer, agile leader, and coach. Feel free to reach out with questions and comments either in the comments here, through my blog or on twitter: @cabriodriver.Blog Footer

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