As I deposit a check through an app on my phone (for my bank that’s less than 6 blocks from my apartment) I realize just how easy humans have it nowadays. In an age of convenience we’re more sedentary than ever. The average office worker sits for around 10 hours each day – moving from desk to car to couch, let’s say – without lifting a finger in between. We can order dinner to our door and browse movies and books on-demand all without getting off the couch. So why trek across town for a face-to-face meeting when you can initiate an online meeting from your desk? Technology, although convenient, allows us to do just about anything from the comfort of a chair.
This is not necessarily a good direction for us to be headed and the proof is in the pudding. The link between a sedentary population and higher healthcare costs is undeniable and when you’re seated for most of your day it’s very easy to consume more calories than you burn. Before you know it your pants are starting to feel a bit snug… The CDC has found that annual medical costs for obese people tally $1,429 higher than those of healthy weight – and that doesn’t account for the other negative effects linked to the obesity epidemic like lowered workplace productivity and absenteeism. Obesity is one of many modifiable risk factors in the workplace, but unfortunately, it’s one that’s on an upward trend year after year.
And obesity isn’t the worst of it. A study from the American Cancer Society has shown that sedentarism also leads to a shortened lifespan and increases risk for problems like heart disease, stroke and diabetes. On top of that, hitting the gym before or after work has not shown to counteract the effects of long-term sitting, which caught me by surprise. So what can be done to combat the effects of being seated all day?
The solution is less sitting and more overall movement. Don’t worry – you don’t have to succumb to the standing desk craze to get your employees out of their seats. Take small steps to promote a culture of wellness in the office and build healthy habits among your population:
- Appoint a “wellness champion.” Seek out that employee who’s enthusiastic about wellness (trust me – there’s always one). Have them lead a weekly walking club during lunch breaks.
- Encourage employees to stand once an hour. Apple Watch seems to get the gist – you can program your wearable to buzz, reminding you to stand up from your desk for at least a minute each hour – and other fitness wearables may require you to do a little bit of walking as well.
- Lead a 5-minute stretching session before starting your staff meetings. It sounds silly, but it can certainly add energy to a room full of lethargic employees.
- Walking meetings, in the appropriate context, can boost creativity and give employees a break from their seats.
- Promote in-person client meetings. Not only will the “face time” strengthen client relations, but it’ll get your employees out of the office.
- Launch a wellness challenge where your employees compete to do the most “steps” or “reps” each week.
Don’t let your employees be chronic desk jockeys – implementing wellness solutions will not only help to combat the “Sitting Disease,” but will make for more productive employees, a healthier population, and lower healthcare costs.