Office workers: Stand up for your health

The typical office worker arrives at their desk by 8 a.m. (give or take a few minutes) and plops themselves down into their ergonomically correct chair. And that is where they stay for the better part of a 40-hour work week.

Working Americans are spending more time off their feet than ever. Sedentary work has increased 83 percent since 1950, accounting for 43 percent of our nation’s jobs. Ultimately, the average office worker spends approximately 77 percent of their day sitting.

So what’s the harm? The more you’re at your desk, the more you get done, right?

Maybe, but all that chair time takes a serious toll on your health.

Researchers have linked prolonged sitting to increased risk of obesity, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders and other chronic conditions.

Sitting is the new smoking

A growing body of evidence confirms that sedentary workers are more prone to obesity, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and other chronic conditions.

Those conditions, in turn, contribute to increased absenteeism, reduced productivity, and higher health insurance and workers’ compensation costs. Here are just a handful of conditions exacerbated by a life spent sitting.

Cancer. People who spend more hours of the day sitting have up to a 66 percent higher risk of developing certain types of cancer than those who aren’t as sedentary, according to a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Obesity. When you are seated, your calorie-burning rate immediately plunges to about one per minute, a third of what it would be if you got up and walked. You burn 30 percent more calories when you’re standing than when you’re sitting, according to an article published in the Harvard Heart Letter.

Diabetes. Sitting for eight to 12 hours or more a day increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 90 percent, according to researchers in Toronto.

Musculoskeletal health. Prolonged sitting can cause muscle degeneration, back issues and strained necks, heart disease and decreased brain function, according to a Washington Post article.

Premature death. Sitting more than six hours during leisure time accelerates your chances of mortality by 37 percent, according to an American Cancer Society study.

It seems sitting is the new smoking. So what’s a desk jockey to do?

Here are a few tips for working a little physical activity into your daily grind.

Step into more productive meetings
It’s hard to resist the allure of a well-furnished meeting room. But those plush chairs are another pitfall in your plans to move more at work.

Next time a co-worker wants to discuss the 2016 business plan, suggest a walking meeting.

Besides getting you on your feet, walking meetings inspire productivity, creative thinking and more honest exchanges among co-workers.

Walk away from convenience
Offices are designed for maximum productivity. For example, there’s probably a supply cabinet right around the corner from you.

Next time you need to refill your stapler, walk to the cabinet at the other corner. Better yet, try the one on the floor above you.

You’d be amazed how many extra steps you can log by simply walking away from the convenience afforded by the typical office layout.

Stand up for your health
Standing at your desk boosts your metabolism and fires the nerves around your muscles. As a bonus, the more you change posture, the less susceptible you are to back issues, neck pain and other musculoskeletal disorders. A U.S. News Health article recommends standing at least once every 30 minutes. Sit-stand workstations make it easy to do just that. If you want to go a step further, consider outfitting your office with treadmill desks.

Deskercise your way to better health
In a previous series of posts, we touted the benefits of functional fitness exercises that prepare your body to do everyday tasks without getting injured. We understand, though, that not everyone has time to take on a regularly scheduled workout program. Deskercises like paper pushups, book presses and chair squats empower you to get the blood flowing and stretch tired muscles without leaving your workstation.

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