A significant portion of our days are spent sitting – Between commuting, work and leisure time; we spend a lot of time being inactive. Many of us have heard the phrase “sitting is the new smoking”. According to the Globe and Mail [article], “the long-term risks of sitting – [include] hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and cancer” – But, there may be more to consider than just this. Allana LeBlanc, a physical activity expert for Participaction states “moving around more at work has been shown to make people more creative and focused, and decreases absenteeism.” In the article Dr. LeBlanc refers to a Stanford study that shows “walking indoors or outdoors increased creativity and the flow of ideas anywhere from 80 to 100 per cent.” Moving throughout the day is positive for both employees and employers.
Dr. LeBlanc also states that only “20 per cent of Canadians are meeting the recommended guideline of 150 minutes of heart-pumping activity a week.” Moreover Dr. LeBlanc suggests, “active people may be unwittingly falling prey to ‘sitting disease’” – In addition the article suggests, “sixty-three per cent of Canadian office workers say they are worried about the amount of time they spend sitting at work […] with one in five office workers admitting that they spend at least eight hours a week – or an entire business day – sitting in meetings.”
What can be done?
- Consider the following, encourage employees to:
- Walk for 15 minutes during lunch breaks
- Take short, active breaks during the work day
- Stand during telephone calls
- Stand during meetings
- Walk during meetings
- Follow the ‘20-20’ rule – for every 20 minutes spent sitting, get up and stretch for 20 seconds
- Encourage treadmill desks, sit-stand desks and other products to encourage physical activity
It is difficult for change to take place in an organization unless there is approval from top management and a shift in corporate culture – The article notes, “A study published in Preventive Medicine last year showed that informing employees of the risks of sitting and giving them permission to stand increased that behaviour by 60 per cent.”
In addition to encouraging increased activity at work, employers may also encourage employees to walk, cycle or jog when commuting for work by offering secure bicycle parking as well as during leisure time by providing incentives such as an organized fitness program allowance.
Chelsea Baglien / Human Resources Administrator / PEO Canada