Reducing the Sedentary Work Day
September 1, 2016
We’ve all heard it: “sitting is the new smoking!” Such bombastic statements can lead to skepticism and assumptions of sensationalist claims backed by little research. But the numbers are in. And while your desk won’t give you cancer, there are genuine health problems linked with leading a sedentary lifestyle.
Consider your day. You sleep (hopefully for eight hours), you get ready, you commute, you sit at your desk, get up for the printer a few times or to go sit (yet again) in a meeting, you commute once more and only a few hours later, it’s time to go to bed. Even if you get in gym time or a run, you might be spending as many as 18 hours being still; more if you enjoy the occasional Netflix binge.
Even if you hit the gym, a sedentary lifestyle can increase your risk for certain diseases or conditions that could result in premature fatality. Cancer, cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes are all made more likely by a lifestyle that incorporates very little or only small bursts of activity. But other areas of your health can also be impacted by so much sitting. Studies are now showing that too much inactivity can actually increase anxiety and depression, in addition to obesity.
Humans have an intrinsic need to be upright and mobile. Interestingly, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to sign up for more spin classes or start training for a marathon just to combat the ill effects of sitting too much. Even making the time to go for walks more consistently during the week can have enormous health benefits physically and “above the shoulders,” in terms of reduced anxiety and depression.
Despite its position as a leading contributor for a sedentary lifestyle, the workplace is actually where you can try and make the most improvement (at least, until we go back to the cars from the Flintstones). In fact, health experts are now recommending standing more during your work day as the answer to reducing the harmful effects of all that sitting. Also, taking brief strolls through the day can have even more health benefits than simply standing.
There are many ways to incorporate these changes into your work life; having walking meetings and taking your phone calls while standing are just a few examples. But more than ever, there are now workplace solutions to help break the sedentary cycle. Height-adjustable desks and treadmill desks are changing the office game. Workplaces are ordering community treadmill desks that people can temporarily use while checking email or taking calls.
With these new products in the workplace, marked improvements are being seen not only in maintaining physical health but even with increased work performance. It turns out that the “get the blood flowing” adage rings true: as simple an exercise as walking can increase creativity and productivity and also reduce stress. Many companies are seeing huge benefits from corporate wellness programs that encourage more movement in the office. We’re all motivated to perform better for companies that have our interests at heart, even on as personal a level as caring for our health.
Consider the benefits that slight adjustments in your daily routine can produce and encourage your employer to do their part in making the workplace better suited for activity. Make use of office tools and culture that can get you moving more. Stand up, stretch your legs and talk to someone next time you need information. See if you can get your boss on board with turning your next meeting into a stroll. Walk a lap around the office next time you move your desk to standing height. Savor the resulting changes to your well-being and endeavor to make even more positive decisions.