The corner office with a good view, a large enough desk and a chair that is comfortable for at least eight hours has been the epitome of professional success. Pride of professional achievement aside, how many of us really know that sitting for long durations everyday is actually detrimental to our health? Yes, that’s true. Research indicates that sitting for prolonged durations in the day increases the risk of death by upto 40% in people with average health. So if your job demands too much sedentary time from you, then you need to read on and make some changes to your lifestyle immediately.
First, let’s understand the problem
Although, the downside of a sedentary lifestyle has been known to researchers for a long time, it is only recently that they have been able to pinpoint the exact reason behind it. Research indicates that long periods of continuous sitting reduces your body’s ability to allow fat to deposit in different organs via the bloodstream. As a result, the fat stays in the bloodstream and over time, it coagulates in the arteries leading to cardiovascular problems. Moreover, the good fat, or HDL, becomes less efficient as the amount of fat in the bloodstream increases beyond reasonable levels.
What’s worse is that going to the gym or engaging in any other kind of physical activity before or after work does not help in undoing this damage either. So, is standing at work the answer to this problem? Dr. James Levine, a researcher at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota who raised the issue in 2006 believes that standing at work is not good for you either. What you really need to do is to keep moving around all day.
So, what can you do about it
Sitting on a chair for too long has severe effect on your health. However, changing the status quo cannot happen overnight and it requires equal participation of all stakeholders involved. For starters, at the organization level, HR policies could be modified to ensure that more employees participate in a ‘keep-moving’ plan.
The plan should be fluid enough to take into account that the employees don’t feel an impediment in their daily work routine. Integrating gamified health and wellness programs into the daily work routine for the employees can also work as a great positive reinforcement to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Companies like Adobe, British Petroleum, Amazon etc. have successfully incorporated such policies into their office environment and have reaped the benefits of higher productivity and employee retention.
Individual effort also counts in this process. On a personal note, try to ensure that your work day involves enough physical activity. Take the stairs every time, take a walk through the floor to talk to your colleague instead of using the phone, or walk over to the water cooler or when you feel like making a cup of coffee for yourself. Making sure your body experiences some movement throughout the day can help counteract some of the adverse effects of sitting for long periods.
Movement, even at a leisurely pace can have a profound effect on your overall health. It helps your metabolism, which in turn helps you lose or maintain a healthy weight. You will see the effect of that in your heightened energy levels and productivity. So do yourself and your career the small favor of watching over your health by starting to move around the office. Your body and your career will thank you for it.