Once upon a time, if you wanted to do yoga or play ping pong at work to break up your day, you might have been called a slacker. Now, more businesses—and employees–are seeing the stress-busting benefits of these kinds of diversions in the office.
A lack of physical activity has been shown to be a risk factor for cardiovascular and other diseases, anxiety and depression. Meanwhile, workplace physical activity and yoga programs are associated with a significant reduction in depressive symptoms and anxiety, respectively, according to research published in the Occupational Medicine publication from Oxford Journals.
Myriad studies reveal the health benefits of yoga for serious conditions including post-traumatic stress disorder, multiple sclerosis, and heart failure. One study out this month finds that employees in high-stress environments were more engaged and resilient in their jobs after taking an at-work program teaching mindful awareness principles and gentle yoga stretches.
And even though the members of Joynture coworking space have varying levels of stress in their jobs, not necessarily the high stress described in that study, the regulars at Wednesday yoga say it definitely helps create calm.
“Sometimes even lunch breaks can be stressful, not a true break in your day,” says Allison Frank. “But with yoga, you get a half hour of stretching and conscious controlled breathing. The stress melts away.”
Dr. House was on to something! If you watched the TV series in which the medical expert broke through thorny problems by repeatedly bouncing a ball against a wall and catching it, you might not be surprised to learn that taking a break from desk work for ping pong can help you unravel your work conundrums.
Table tennis is “the world’s best brain sport,” according to Dr. Daniel Amen (not a character on House but a real-life psychiatrist). Besides being just plain fun, playing ping pong can increase concentration and alertness, stimulate brain function, and develop tactical thinking skills.
“A fascinating brain imaging study from Japan found that table tennis helps balance your brain,” Amen says. “The researchers examined a group of people before and after playing table tennis for a period of ten minutes. The ‘after’ images revealed increased activity in the prefrontal cortex, the thoughtful part of your brain, and the cerebellum.”
So consider this a nudge to get out of your office chair and onto the yoga mat or over to the ping pong table today.