On average, Australians spend around 32.4 hours weekly or up to 1,683 hours a year in the workplace. That’s a lot of hours spent mostly behind our desks or boardroom tables. There’s growing proof that sitting for prolonged periods can be detrimental to our health. Some quarters even go to the extent of labeling sitting as the new smoking and it’s not surprising to see the reason why.
Chances are, you might be reading this post seated at your desk at this very moment. So, it might be a good idea to read on, then stand up and get moving soon after.
The Risks of Excessive Sitting at Work
There’s a growing body of research that shows sitting for prolonged periods is linked to a sedentary lifestyle, which in turn, puts you at risk for a lot of health problems. These include obesity and being overweight, developing chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, and being anxious or depressed.
The human body is built for standing upright. Your cardiovascular system works better, and your bowel functions a lot more efficiently in an upright position. Sitting for long hours can also lead to the weakening of your leg muscles as well as the glutes. These muscles are vital for walking and stabilising your body. Weak leg muscles and glutes may put you at an increased risk for falls and muscle strains.
Too many hours spent sitting can also weaken the hips and the back, causing the hip flexor muscles to shorten and contribute to chronic back pain. The latter can be further aggravated by poor sitting posture and chairs with poor ergonomics.
The Benefits of Being More Active at Work
Being more active in the workplace can have significant benefits that benefit everyone’s well-being.
For employers, this can mean an increase in employee productivity, a reduction in absenteeism, a boost in morale, and the ability to attract high-quality employees.
For the employees, promoting wellness and activity in the workplace has benefits that include higher productivity, more energy, better health, fewer sick days, being more socially connected to fellow employees, and having a venue for stress relief.
How to Reduce Sitting Time at Work?
We all know how important daily exercise is to our health and well-being. However, the busy work schedule can get in the way of including regular physical activity in your day. While finding time to exercise can be difficult, what with all the work, family, and social commitments you must deal with, it is not impossible.
Here are 4 ways of how to become more active in the workplace:
- Move more – Treating physical activity like a business appointment is a good strategy to find time for exercise during a busy day. Physical activity can reduce your risks of health conditions associated with sedentary jobs. A recent study involving more than 1 million people showed that being physically active for at least one hour each day could eliminate the increased risk of death associated with sitting for 8 hours each day. Moving more during your workday can also increase productivity and reduce absenteeism and healthcare costs. There are many risks associated with sitting down for several hours and by the end of the workday, sometimes there is little time or energy left for getting active. So, how can you stay more active in the workplace?
- Have walking meetings – Rather than moving from your desk chair to the board room for a meeting, have you considered switching seat-down meetings for a standing or walking meeting? It is a good way to break up the day spent sitting on uncomfortable chairs and increases the amount of movement in your day.
- Walk or cycle to work – this can be dependent on the location of your job and how far you work from home, but trying to switch up the way you get to and from work is a simple way to inject physical activity into your workday. Leave your car at home, park further away from your bus stop, or get off at an earlier train station and walk the rest of the way.
- Stand up regularly – something as simple as setting a reminder on your computer every half hour to tell you to “stand up” can help curb the related health risks of sitting too long. The use of sit-stand desks is becoming more common to break up sitting-based work regularly and helps to avoid prolonged static positions.
Tips for Staying Active and On Your Feet in the Workplace
No matter how you tackle staying active during your working day, it is essential to remember that any movement, even if it is only 10 minutes, is better than staying still and not moving at all. Here are tips that our Exercise Physiologists recommend:
- Start small – get started on a 10-minute brisk walk on your lunch break and then aim for a minimum of three 10-minute brisk walks a week. Eventually, work up to 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five days per week.
- Wear comfortable clothing and shoes to work – this can incentivise you to be more active at work. Also, keep your runners in sight so you can switch easily.
Team up with your workmates to help remind and support each other to move more throughout the day. This is a great way to stay accountable and increase your motivation.
If we can schedule a meeting, we can include exercising like a business appointment and include it in our daily schedule. Put it in your calendar and treat it as an important meeting, just like everything else in there.
Want to become more active at work but need advice?
So, you’ve decided to put more activity into your workday but where do you begin? If you aren’t sure where to start, what type of physical activity would be best suited for you, or want to implement a worksite physical activity program, go ahead and ask your friendly Exercise Physiologists at Healthstin in Hurstville. Our EPs can help prescribe appropriate and safe workday-based exercises for yourself and coworkers and they’re just a phone call away. Reach out to us via 1300 090 931 today.
Sitting down less and standing up more applies to the workplace as well as at home. Becoming more active at work where you spend a big chunk of your day is essential to your overall health and well-being. The sooner you start, the better your overall health and productivity will be.