DESK POTATOES

15 May 2006

One of the best ways to ease yourself back into action is by spending less time watching sport and more time engaging in it. Choose a favourite sport, get in touch with your local club and try it yourself.

Sarah Hardman deals with some of the nation’s fittest bodies as a Senior Sports Physiologist at the Sports Council for Wales. Week-in week-out, she works at the élite end of the sports spectrum monitoring the fitness levels of Wales’s future Olympic hopefuls.

Yet her advice for ‘desk potatoes’ is to forget about aiming for record-breaking attempts on the athletics track - start off slowly and build up fitness gradually.

"Getting back into exercise can be daunting, but low impact, low intensity activity is the key to building better fitness levels," she says.

"If you start off with long-duration activities like swimming, walking or cycling you’ll be burning more body fat and reducing total cholesterol levels, which all helps to avoid coronary heart disease."

"The benefits of regular exercise are particularly relevant for people working in stressful environments. They include decreased blood pressure and a lower heart rate along with lower rates of conditions like obesity, hypertension, diabetes and strokes," she adds.

Active choices in the workplace can use up those extra calories evident around your burgeoning waistline and can make that crucial difference when trying to keep your weight under control.

The Sports Council for Wales has stepped in with some extra top tips on getting active in the workplace.

Workplace Activity

· Team sports are an excellent way of getting fit. Why not organise workmates into a company team for football, volleyball or tennis. As well as benefiting staff morale, sport is an excellent networking tool. Join a league, or - by joining forces with other organisations - set up a league of your own.

· Use the stairs – 50 calories are burned using the stairs over a five minute period! Why not produce some posters to remind them of this fact and place them strategically by the lifts and escalators to encourage your staff to use the stairs.

· Management in motion – not all meetings have to take place in the boardroom. Why not suggest they take the meeting out of the office and on foot?

· Competition/league tables – bring a spot of competition into the frame and invite employees to take part in a league table of exercise. Incentives such as a longer lunch break on Friday might just do the trick!

· Make available information on local leisure and community facilities

· Exercise during meal/rest breaks – encourage staff to get active when they can - even if it’s a 10 minute walk to stretch the legs!

· Cycling to work – bike racks are easy to fix and make cycling to work feasible.

· Drinking water – the best medicine! Promote the 8 glasses of water a day ethos along with five fruit and veg a day!

· Dress down Fridays – why not invite your staff to dress down at the end of the working week on the condition that they make the most of wearing trainers by walking to work or walking during their lunch break

· Showers – ideally, showers are made available so that your staff can look and feel presentable after a lunchtime run or a cycle into work! The Sports Council for Wales administers Community Chest lottery funded grants up to £750 which can help create new or improved sport and physical activity opportunities to encourage employees to become more physically active. Visit www.sports-council-wales.co.uk/funding for application information.

For more information on how to get involved in a sport, contact the Sports Council for Wales on or visit the Sports Council for Wales website at www.sports-council-wales.co.uk