It has been well documented that sitting for hours on end is bad for the body and can lead to back pain as well as higher risks of heart disease and diabetes. But research shows that it can also dramatically slow down brain activity, and the ability to think and create at work.
Isla Galloway-Gaul, the managing director of Inspiration Office, an office space and furniture consultancy, said: “As neuroscientists continue to learn about brain functioning, it’s clearer than before that our bodies and brains function interdependently.
“In as little as 30 minutes, sitting can lead to foggy thinking and office workers becoming more easily distracted, which hampers the ability to analyse, think critically and problem solve,” she said.
Steelcase, a global office services design company, which is represented by Inspiration Office in South Africa, recently referenced several findings in its recent report that highlights how best to help our brains perform well in the workplace.
John Medina, the author of Brain Rules, said that physical activity is “cognitive candy” for people. It makes us more energised, engaged and focused.
Changing postures and less sitting translate into more physical, mental and emotional engagement in the problem-solving process.
Studies conducted at the University of Illinois showed that a person’s ability to solve a problem can be influenced by how he or she moves. They concluded that the brain can use body movement cues to help understand and solve complex problems.
Stanford University investigated how just the simple act of walking, something most people can do with ease, enhances creative ideas.
“They (researchers) found walking increased their study group’s creative output by an average of 60%,” said Galloway-Gaul.
She added said the implications for how teams work in the office are particularly important. The office needs to provide for a variety of postures in a collaborative space, assuring that individuals can move through the full range of team dynamics, from idea generation to critique and reflection, to releasing tension and renewing energy by movement.
“Movement assures team members can be close to each other, as well as to whiteboards and technologies that array and aggregate their ideas. Even pacing around the room has been shown to increase creativity.
“When you’re not owned by your chair, and instead you’re sharing your ideas around the office the workplace becomes a very different experience. Moving helps us to think and feel better,” she added.
Even just standing up or performing small movements can pump fresh blood and oxygen to our brains, triggering the release of chemicals like endorphins and dopamine, which improve mood and memory. It also plays a role in creativity by stimulating the brain to forge new neural pathways versus focusing on what it already knows.
“This means movement can have an immediate effect on how quickly an insight is reached,” Galloway-Gaul concluded.
Isla Galloway-Gaul, Managing Director of Inspiration Office.