The Ideal workplace for your health - by MD Thordis Berger
Avoid sitting for too long. The ideal workplace + tools that you can easily use in the office to increase movement and reduce sitting time.
Many jobs today involve a large proportion of the day spent sitting. This can increase the risk of being overweight or obese. In addition, many poor health outcomes have been linked to too much sitting. Among these fatty liver disease, as well as increased incidence of cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes type 2 and higher all-cause mortality.
Recent research suggests that those who sit more than 6 hours daily even when they exercise regularly are more likely to have heart disease than those who sit less than 3 hours per day and don’t “exercise” at all. In other words: being engaged in moderate or vigorous activity a few hours during the week, doesn't seem to significantly compensate for prolonged uninterrupted sitting time.1
According to a new study from the University of Miami, changing just one seated meeting a week to a "walking meeting" can help sedentary workers to increase their work-related physical activity.[i] Previous studies have shown that moderate exercise, which includes brisk walking, for as little as 15 minutes per day can add up to 3 years of life expectancy.
Another option is to hold “stand-up meetings” that have become a common ritual of many teams. Just to stand-up burns about 12% more calories than sitting. [ii] Also this data indicates that standing meetings run much faster than sitting meetings, and may increase active participation and sharing of ideas.
For this reason, one option for office workers that has been growing in popularity is the sit-stand desk. These, as the name suggests, allow you to either sit at your work station or stand. [iii]
Other tools that you can easily use in the office to increase movement and/or reduce sitting time are:
- Pedometers or pedometer apps, for tracking how much you are walking per day. Studies show that people wearing a pedometer walk about 2000 steps more per day[iv]
- Hand grippers for relieving stress and improving grip strength. A tennis ball may represent a cheaper alternative.
- Stability/Pilates balls to sit on in lieu of a conventional chair. They may help build core stability muscles, thereby reducing lower back pain and injury.
Those who have not been working out regularly should start using the (above mentioned) equipment. Start in small time increments to avoid injury, approaching it just as they would any new exercise regime.
Other ideas of being more active at work include using the stairs instead of a lift and walking to a colleague's desk rather than phoning or emailing them. Try eating lunch away from desk, taking a break from the computer every 30 minutes.
[i] Kling HE et al. Opportunities for Increased Physical Activity in the Workplace: the Walking Meeting (WaM) Pilot Study, Miami, 2015 015. Prev Chronic Dis 2016;13:160111.
[ii] American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) 2016 Annual Meeting: Abstract 1723. Presented June 2, 2016.
[iii] 'Workplace interventions for reducing sitting at work, N Shrestha et al, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2016.
[iv] Source Reference: Bravata D, et al. "Using pedometers to increase physical activity and improve health: a systematic review" JAMA 2007; 298: 2296-2304.
If you are interested in making your work day as healthy as possible then have a look at our suggestions on what to eat at work.