Home > Employee Benefits > Get up! Sitting less is a low cost wellness tactic

Get up! Sitting less is a low cost wellness tactic

Too many Americans today are overweight,  and one of the main contributing factors to this  problem has to do with the fact that we don’t move enough.  During work hours, many people are sitting in at a desk, in a cubicle or in a meeting. Then for most of us, we sit in our car and drive home. Once there, we are active for a little while (make dinner, walk the dog, do some cleaning), but then most of us proceed to the sofa or home office chair and sit. When it’s time, we go to bed. The next morning, we get up, move around some, then it’s back in the car to repeat, 5 days a week. As I’ve said before, our society has a massive obesity and overweight problem, and weight is an easy equation: caloric intake + lack of physical activity = weight gain.

Studies from the American Cancer Society looked at 123,000 Americans over 14 years and reported 37% higher death rates for those who sat 6 hours or more a day versus those who sat 3 hours or less. James Levine, a researcher at the Mayo Clinic, has done extensive studies on how just simple movements can reduce weight and control obesity levels. He coined the term Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, or NEAT, to describe simple activities such as pacing while on the phone, standing at meetings, walking down the hall or even just fidgeting in your chair. It’s not exercise – it’s just movement. And that simple act can burn calories. He found that two people, fed identical calories, if one just made simple movements to a greater degree essentially did not gain weight compared to the other, more sedentary person.

For many Americans, starting an exercise program can be daunting for many reasons. Here are some cheap and easy ideas to test out at your organization that are not exercise per se:

  • Have standing meetings
  • Talk to IT about programing pop-up messages to your employees every hour to get up, walk around a bit or do a chair exercise. How about the James Brown video popping up for 15 seconds? (It works for Netflix – the people in their distribution centers take 5 minutes every hour to do basic stretches and physical activity. It’s programmed into their workstations.)
  • If you have a wellness committee, have the members walk around the office and observe people who are glued to their computers and have them get that person up, “Hey, take a walk with me”
  • At long meetings – provide breaks every hour at half day/all day meetings, encourage people to walk around the meeting space, the halls or if you’re at a hotel, go outside.

Some other ideas that involve cost include:

  • Redo offices and cubicles to make them be standing work stations
  • Provide treadmill work stations (I’m serious – check this out)
  • Provide Bluetooth headsets, and make those with offices walk around while on the phone
  • If you are on multiple floors, put internal stairs into your design – and make people use them

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William Gallagher Associates is a leading provider of insurance brokerage, risk management and employee benefits services to firms with complex risks and dynamic needs, within industries that include technology, life sciences, financial risks, health care, renewable energy & clean technology, and environmental services. WGA has offices in Boston, MA; New York, NY; Hartford, CT; Princeton, NJ; Columbia, MD; and Atlanta, GA.

  1. Scott Kirschner
    December 16, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    One other interesting thing, for anyone that wants to be “hard core” about it: one of the women on the bike team I’m on was the co-founder and CEO of a local company, and she had a road bike on a trainer in her office, a lap top stand on the handle bars and a bluetooth headset. She would work while on the trainer and do the equivalent of 50-80 miles a day! How is that for combining work and exercise?

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