Is your desk job killing you?

For more on starting a wellness program,  21st Zentury have successfully implemented Wellness Programs in Google, An Post, Central Bank,  click here.

The productivity of the average worker has skyrocketed thanks to technology, but it comes at the price of a sedentary lifestyle. And mounting research suggests that sitting at your desk for eight hours a day can have a dramatic impact on your health.

Don’t get me wrong. I burn plenty of calories typing emails. And I make a point to always click and drag through long websites and documents — scroll wheels are for lazy people. But all that strenuous activity pales in comparison to the exercise my forebears did on the job 50 years ago (killing dinosaurs). In the 1960s, nearly half of all jobs required physical activity. Today, less than 20% do. Day to day, you may not see the toll of this. But over lifetimes and large amounts of health data, the effects are pretty staggering.

For example, from 1980 to 2000, the time Americans spent sitting increased by only 8%, while exercise rates stayed the same. The result? Obesity doubled. (The prevalence of processed foods likely plays a role here too, but you get the gist.)

Now, most experts agree that being homeless and not eating are far worse for your health than having a desk job, so don’t kick your boss’s door in just yet. But the moral of the story is that you should pay attention to your sedentary habits, and be sure to take frequent breaks to stand and walk around. And, as obvious people everywhere will tell you, counter-balance your sitting sprees with regular exercise and buckets of vegetables.

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re sitting down, which means you’re probably digging yourself an early grave.

At least, that’s the gist of a few articles that have made the rounds recently. A particularly popular article in Men’s Health cited a study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise that will make any desk jockey wince. Examining the lifestyles of more than 17,000 men and women over 13 years, the report found those who sit for most of the day were 54% more likely to die of heart attacks. According to Men’s Health, that statistic was true even if the people in the study were non-smokers and regular exercisers.

Another report cited in a recent New York Times Magazine story tracked 123,000 Americans and found the death rate for those who spent six or more hours a day sitting was 20% higher than for men who sat for three hours or less. For women, the difference was 40%. No one’s really sure exactly why that’s the case. You certainly burn fewer calories sitting than you do standing and moving around, but weight gain isn’t necessarily the primary reason that sitting is so bad for you.

If you’re like me, you’ve read those articles and wondered, “OK, what’s the alternative?” Aside from switching occupations here are a few things you can do to help yourself and your work colleagues…

So what can you do to keep your office workers in shape and active?

1. Encourage frequent breaks. Even if your employees already break for an hour to go for a walk or exercise at a gym, long, uninterrupted times spent sitting can still prove to be dangerous. One Australian study found that micro-breaks—that is, getting up and moving every 15 minutes—were perhaps more valuable than taking long breaks.

“We found that independent of total sedentary time, moderate-to-vigorous intensity time, and mean intensity of the breaks, more interruptions in sedentary time were beneficially associated with metabolic risk variables, particularly adiposity measures, triglycerides, and 2-h plasma glucose,” the study said. “These findings suggest that it is not only the amount of sedentary time that is important, but also the manner in which it is accumulated.”

2. Make your meetings mobile. Why meet around a conference table when you can go for a walk? When it’s nice out, grab your tablets and head outdoors. “Walking meetings are a great way to energize your workday while providing essential exercise for yourself,” notes the Center for Health Policy. “Walking meetings may be used for brainstorming, creative discussion, and problem solving.”

Think treadmill or standing desk. It may sound silly (and look even sillier) but exercising at one’s desk is an ideal way to keep active at the office. According to a report released in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, desk exercise is a proven weight-loss mechanism. “If sitting computer-time were replaced by walking-and-working, energy expenditure could increase by 100 kcal/h” the report concludes. “Thus, if obese individuals were to replace time spent sitting at the computer with walking computer time by two to three hours/day, and if other components of energy balance were constant, a weight loss of 20 kg to 30 kg/year could occur.”

3. Start a wellness program. For a small business, creating a wellness program can seem like a daunting (and expensive) task. But with a wellness program, the American Journal of Health Promotion “showed an average 27 percent reduction in sick leave absenteeism, 26 percent reduction in health care costs, and 32 percent reduction in workers’ compensation and disability management cost claims” while the University of Michigan Health Management Research Center estimates that an organization saves $350 annually when a low-risk employee remains low risk and $153 when a high-risk employee’s health risks are reduced.


Article by  Matt Silverman, Todd Wasserman & Eric Markowitz

© 21st Zentury Health - Old Connaught House, Ferndale Road, Bray, Co. Wicklow - Mob.: 085/1583741 - Contact Us - find us Wikipronto