Do you share a cordial relationship with your office chair where half of your time is spent every day? I am sure you do. Especially if you lead a corporate lifestyle, you may probably spend many hours a day sitting down at your desks or commuting to work. If you do so, you might unknowingly be a victim of a severe problem: a sedentary lifestyle.
What is a Sedentary Lifestyle?
Spending extended amounts of time with little to no energy expenditure and physical exercise can be termed as sedentary behavior. Sitting motionless in front of the computer all day with just our fingers and eyes moving says a lot about the type of lifestyle we are living.
Also, it comes as quite a shock how despite so many advancements, the work culture was healthier 50 years ago than it is now. Technology ought to take this credit. Sedentary behavior is most prevalent in corporate jobs than in physically active jobs.
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In fact, it has become one of the most significant health issues of this modern age, and leading a sedentary life can give rise to many chronic problems in life such as heart disease and obesity.
4th leading risk factor for global mortality is physicl inactivity.
What are the effects of a Sedentary Lifestyle?
If smoking is dangerous, prolonged sitting is no less. As per research, people who stand at the job have more calories burnt than those who do not. Along with increasing health risks, sitting is said to shorten the lifespan of a person.
A study conducted by researchers from Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center found a relationship between increased risk of dying from cancer and a sedentary lifestyle.
Sedentary behavior may be a distinct risk factor, independent of physical activity, for multiple adverse health outcomes in adults. The combined effects of a sedentary lifestyle are, therefore, as follows:
- Obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, musculoskeletal problems, etc., have all been linked with a sedentary lifestyle.
- Long periods of inactivity can slow down metabolism and weaken the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar and blood pressure levels, and break down fat.
- Lowered immune system making us prone to illness.
- Osteoporosis may occur due to the weakening of bones.
- Loss of flexibility because of less body movement.
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Also, other than physical problems, sedentary behavior also has a negative impact on mental health. People who are physically inactive seem to fall prey to depression and anxiety easily. Moreover, as we know exercise helps to combat stress, people who don’t exercise can suffer from the same as well.
Sedentary jobs have increased 83% since 1950 and physically active jobs now make up only about 25% of our workforce, which is 50% less than in 1950.
Common Threats of a sedentary lifestyle
According to research the most common threats a sedentary lifestyle poses are:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Cardiovascular disease
- Early death
Long hours of inactivity adds to low metabolism and messes with the body's ability to maintain blood sugar levels, blood pressure etc.
Data collected over 15 years ago also cited that sedentary lifestyles give rise to chances of early death irrespective of physical activity levels.
This shows that it is essential to reduce the amount of time spent being sedentary in addition to doing more exercise.
How Sedentary Lifestyle affects different parts of the body?
The sedentary lifestyle, even though a simple term, comes with a lot of repercussions. Now, who would have thought that sitting can pose a threat to health?
One says, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”- this statement is true in literal terms. For our brains to function correctly, the constant flow of blood and oxygen need to be intact. And when we are sitting motionless all day, the blood circulation slows down.
This is a well-known fact that operating a computer while sitting in the same position for too long tends to mess with your necks, thereby putting a lot of stress on the vertebrae. And, it leads to pain and worse posture.
While typing, we tend to extend our arms, and when we are sitting at the same position for a prolonged time, this becomes a point of concern. Your trapezius area- the flat triangle-shaped muscle at the back goes through pain as a lot of stress is put on your shoulders when you are slouching.
The back is the biggest victim of our sedentary way of life. When we sit in a particular posture for too long, our back suffers. There are possibilities of compressed spinal discs leading to chronic back pain. When the spine is inactive, it becomes inflexible and hence can get injured doing minimal tasks.
Sedentary jobs ask you to be comfortable in your chair, and when you are too relaxed, your muscles are also resting with you. Moving, standing with a straight back can do wonders for your abs, and if not flexed, fat gets accumulated in the front and back of the waist, along with the occurrence of muscle deterioration.
When you sit, your hip flexors do not get extended, leading them to shorten over time. This can restrict your motion.
Glutes & Legs
When the body remains inactive, the muscles atrophy, and this is a genuine concern. The most powerful muscles in your body should be well-maintained, but when the blood circulation slows down, there is a high probability of swollen legs and varicose veins (the condition of enlarged veins overfilled with blood).
As per research, the average age of osteoporosis is decreasing, and the number of hip fractures can be equivalent to the hours we spend sitting on our chairs.
How do you fix a Sedentary Lifestyle?
Sitting is not a problem; the problem lies with moving too little. And, if you are in a corporate world, you may be surprised to find the extent of the havoc your sedentary life is causing on your body and your mind. But it’s not too late. Where there is a problem, there is an opportunity.
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With the help of the following ways, you will combat the adverse effects of a sedentary living.
1. Track the Time You Spend Sitting
Sitting is one constant activity all of us do daily. But, do you even count the number of hours you sit at the office or home?
No, right? The first thing you can do is keep track of the time you spend sitting down in your office. Once you have the time tracked down, make a conscious effort to reduce this. Many studies prove sitting for long periods puts us at high risk for health problems.
2. Take Regular Breaks
Nobody likes to work for 8 hours straight without any short break in the middle. And, it is a good practice to refresh your mind now and then.
So, once in every while, take a short break to get off your chairs. Go for a walk or make a cup of coffee, or just stand up and stretch your limbs a little. Taking short breaks will also help you to combat any spell of boredom at work and help you become more productive.
And sooner than you know, you will be getting up from your chairs more frequently instead of being stuck to them for hours.
3. Go for a Walk After Lunch
Walking is the go-to option for anyone who wants to stay fit, for it is the most comfortable form of exercise. Convenient and healthy, isn't it?
Always go for a walk after having your lunch. Or, go walk to a nearby outlet for lunch. Doing so will ensure you get an extra activity during the day.
Walking, after a meal especially, aids digestion and helps control blood sugar levels. It also keeps your heart healthy as it increases HDL cholesterol and decreases LDL cholesterol.
4. Take the stairs
The first thing we look for when entering more than two-storeyed buildings is the elevator. We are so used to taking lifts even to the first, second floor that using stairs do not come to mind.
We consider it a waste of time because people are always in a rush. So, if your office building is a multi-storeyed one and has elevators, take stairs instead of the elevator. Climbing stairs uses up a lot of energy and burns many calories. In fact, climbing stairs burns more calories per minute than jogging.
Moreover, taking the stairs counts as physical activity on its own and it will help you become less sedentary.
5. Stand while Working
Sitting for long periods at work is one of the main causes of back pain and bad posture.
Try to work while standing for 15 to 30 minutes every hour. This will help you to avoid being too sedentary. If you are an employer, you can provide taller desks at your office where your employees can work while standing.
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Standing desks or a treadmill desk will promote good posture and they will also eliminate health risks associated with sitting.
The risks associated with sedentary behavior can be negated by physical exercise. But doing the proper movement in the office alone can get a little awkward. There are in fact many exercises that you can do at the convenience of your desk without any exercise equipment.
These exercises are easy to do and will help you get up from your chairs and be active. Also, doing these exercises will promote weight loss and help you attain a healthy weight.
7. Be Active Outside of Work
Despite making changes like taking the stairs or cycling to work, you might not be able to avoid altogether being sedentary at work. As such, try to sit as little as possible when you get out of work.
Do not just go home and fall on the bed like a sloth. Avoid sitting on the couch at home watching television or playing video games. Go to a gym and work out, go for an evening walk, or do anything that limits your sitting duration.
Try moving around for something or the other.
8. Change your Commute
In addition to being sedentary at work, you also are mostly physically inactive while commuting to and from work. Irrespective of whether you are driving a vehicle or traveling via bus, you sit throughout the whole journey. And, this just adds up to the hours you spend sitting down.
Two ways to combat this is by cycling or walking to work. Both have numerous benefits and are great at keeping one healthy and fit. They are beneficial to the environment as well. Also, they will help to keep you active throughout the day and ward off stress associated with traveling in traffic.
As for me, there are days when I just walk home from the office. It gets tiring, but the results are what keep you motivated.
9. Participate in a Fitness Challenge
These days, corporates are taking employee health into account and implementing several programs towards their employees' well-being because the workforce's health is directly related to the productivity levels that cannot be compromised.
If you are an employer and you have not yet introduced a fitness challenge already, you should do it immediately. A fitness challenge can be introduced as a part of your company’s health and wellness programs. It can include challenges like walking 10,000 steps a day, cycling to work, etc.
Participation in such challenges promotes healthy behaviors and it combats the sedentary behaviors associated with a corporate lifestyle.
10. Eat less, drink more
Calories are attained for free, and this is the last thing you would want to have: the more food you consume, the more calorie intake. And, sitting is not helping you burn any calories. Then, you will be stuck with them all your life.
Thus the mantra is simple: replace eating with drinking water.
Eat but in fewer amounts. It isn't easy to control cravings, especially if you are a foodie, but this is possible.
How will you change the sedentary behavior in the Workplace?
As an employer, you would want good health for your employees. Lethargic and fatigued individuals lose their efficiency in the long run. And no organization can afford that. Especially, in times like this, we want all hands on deck. So, in order to push your employees towards an active lifestyle-
1. Conduct Step Challenges
A friendly office competition is healthy for the entire workforce. A step challenge is what enables you to track your steps on a digital platform, one like Vantage Fit. With such a wellness platform in handy, you can host several walking challenges and contests for the workforce.
On winning the set targets, employees must be rewarded with gift cards or redeemable points maybe. And, employers can also monitor the performance with the help of the available leaderboard.
This type of challenge will get the employees addicted to keep a track of their steps. Once they decide on achieving specific goals, they will start getting conscious about their health more and more.
2. Walk and Talk meetings
Go outdoors rather than staying inside the four walls of your conference room. Engage your employees in walk and talk meetings and see the fun in that. Employees can get fresh air and do quick exercise sessions while being in the meeting. Weird but doesn’t sound all bad, does it?
3. Set Alarms
Encourage employees to stand up every 30 minutes or so. Better if you set an alarm in the giant clock which goes “Ding-dong” every half an hour. Make your employees stand up and take a stroll. Get your team moving this further helps in building a sense of camaraderie.
4. Use standing Desks
Install standing desks in the workplace. While this will burn holes in your pocket but there are companies which find it worth making their employees healthy. Employees who use standing desks have less to worry about back, shoulder or knee plain for that matter.
5. Encourage talking to Coworkers
As an employer, too much chit-chat by your employees at work might be distracting. However, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. In this case, it is socializing. Social interaction is very essential for Jack to be able to focus properly in work. So encourage him to go across the hall and have some refreshing time with his peers.
Walking across the hall is also way better than sitting in the same chair for 8 hours straight.
Wrapping it Up
A sedentary lifestyle is associated with numerous health problems, from heart diseases to cancer. It is tough to avoid it entirely, but you can prevent its harmful effects with techniques like the ones mentioned above.
It is quite apparent to go home after a tiring day and fall on the couch watching tv, so you should try to maintain the right health conditions in the office for you spend more time there. Add activity, even if minimal, to the list and see the changes for yourself.
Limiting sedentary behavior is a significant aspect of a successful workplace health and wellness program, and you must take all the steps necessary to do so.
So, keep the activity levels high!