Is Sitting the New Smoking?
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New research has shown definite links between the amount of time that people spend sitting and an increase in the incidence of a wide range of illnesses, from type 2 diabetes and heart disease to depression, among others. Not only do these illnesses seriously decrease quality of life, they also get pretty expensive when it comes to medical cover, medical leave and early retirement due to incapacity.
But what if your office is structured around the deskbound 9-5? There are several ways to combat this new “disease”, and adding a few of them into the day-to-day life of your employees could help to reduce early onset symptoms and improve overall health:
Get people moving
Easier said than done, we hear you cry. There are a few ways to get this done in a traditional office setup: get everyone to set alarms on their computers for a quick stretch or to fill up a glass of water. Then re-look at meetings: if it’s a small one-on-one, and you don’t need computers or screens, take a walk. A 20-30 minute walk around the block gives you some privacy, a healthy breath of air and a change of scenery.
You can also incentivise movement by linking employees’ fitness trackers to a company database and introducing an incentivised competition. You could even consider subsidising a tracker for those employees who lack one, but still want to get involved.
Take a look at your office setup. Firstly, look at those who work more than four hours at a stretch in front of a computer. Consider adding a flexible working space to the area, to allow people a standing option. This might seem frivolous, but experts say that adding in a standing element helps to reduce strain. It doesn’t have to be all day – even 10-15 minutes a day spent standing instead of sitting helps to increase digestive efficiency, blood flow to the brain and reduce the strain on the lower back, legs and glutes.
Change how people sit
Improving how people sit goes a long way to reducing inflammation and associated pain. If you’ve implemented standing desks for some employees, consider offering them a bar stool, which gives support and a different position, while encouraging the core to remain active. For those at a conventional desk, introduce a few exercise balls to the office. They help to engage core muscles and keep the body active while sitting, plus they’re a lot of fun.
Even the traditional office chair can be optimised for each person:
- Knees should be on the same level or slightly lower than hips
- Elbows should be at about 100-110°, with the keyboard directly ahead
- The screen should be directly ahead of the eyes, with the top of the screen about 5-10 cm above the eyes.
Encourage exercise during the day
Depending on where people live, it can take upwards of an hour to get home, on top of their full day job. Consider extending lunch breaks and encourage employees to get out for a walk or a run over lunch. Even introducing standing lunches, or trying to get everyone to have a good, deep stretch before the afternoon starts can help.
These are just a few small changes that can have a big impact on the lives of your employees, lengthening their lives and increasing happiness. Why is this important? Because a happy employee is generally a much more efficient and effective one.