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Blue notes blog


Gimme a break … a wellness break

Terry Skidnuk

When I started at Alberta Blue Cross, I knew I was joining an organization that valued wellness. In my short time here, it’s been inspiring to see and learn about the many wellness programs and initiatives that have taken place and all the people who are involved.

One of the biggest reasons I wanted to work here was to be both part of a team with a goal of being the healthiest workplace in Alberta and part of a movement to help make all Albertans healthier. One initiative I’m really excited about is our new “wellness time” policy. This new policy gives employees 15 minutes each day to be physically active and focus on their personal health during company time.

According to the Global Workplace Health and Wellness Report, published by the Global Corporate Challenge (GCC) health initiative, 86 per cent of employees don’t participate in wellness initiatives because they feel they don’t have the time. Wellness programs in the workplace are doomed if people can’t take part. And if people remain inactive all workday, their health will suffer.

The GCC states that, trying to feel better—through physical activity, de-stressing or nutrition—has to be an integral part of a company culture. When employees feel they can’t take time to look after their well-being, it has to become part of their schedules. And so, the 15-minute wellness break was launched at Alberta Blue Cross with executive and management support.

In an office work environment, where we are largely inactive, the importance of taking time to move cannot be stressed enough. The longer we’re inactive each day and over time, the more serious the health risks. In fact, mortality from all causes goes up in accordance with our level of inactivity. But aside from that very significant fact, it’s also quality of life that really takes a hit.

Certainly, office attire and the prospect of working up a sweat can be a deterrent. But physical activity, which we need to accumulate throughout the day, does not need to be sweat-inducing to be beneficial and it can easily happen in business clothes. Here are just a few ways to put regular wellness breaks in to action.

  • A simple brisk walk can make a huge difference. One stroll around the block is about 775 steps and takes about six to seven minutes. Plus, getting away from your desk can be very refreshing.
  • Bring a co-worker. Physical activity is that much easier to practice when you plan it with a friend for extra support, motivation and fun.
  • If the nature of your job doesn’t allow a 15-minute break all at once, break up that time into halves or thirds. Even a few minutes of physical activity at different times throughout the day is enough to unlock stiff muscles and joints, give your circulatory system a boost and help to reduce risks.
  • If you feel you don’t need the 15-minute wellness break, you may want to reconsider. Being inactive for long bouts of time in one position can result in muscle and joint stiffness and pain.
  • Consistency is key. We’re all going to miss a day or two from time to time. When it happens, don’t beat yourself up—get back to it so it becomes a regular part of your workday. Reap the benefits of this self-care time during work hours.

Terry Skidnuk is the wellness expert at Alberta Blue Cross and a certified personal trainer with the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology.