Home > Employee Benefits > Sitting less – the low cost wellness tactic

Sitting less – the low cost wellness tactic

standing_deskWe’ve all heard that ‘sitting is the new smoking’ and our lack of physical activity during the work week is one of the contributing factors to many Americans being overweight or obese. For most of us, we’re in a routine of sitting the majority of our day: at a desk, or in a cubicle during work, followed by the car or train on the commute home before heading over to the sofa to unwind once there. Our society is in the midst of an obesity crisis, affecting everything from medical costs to health insurance premiums, and in some cases making small adjustments to this daily routine can be part of the solution.

Studies from the American Cancer Society looked at 123,000 Americans over 14 years and reported 37% higher death rates for those who sat six hours or more a day versus those who sat less than three hours. James Levin, researcher at the Mayo Clinic, has done extensive studies on how simple movement throughout the day can reduce weight and control obesity levels. He coined the term “non-exercise activity thermogenesis”, or “NEAT”, to describe simple activities such as walking while on the phone, standing at meetings, walking down the hall, or even just fidgeting in your chair. It’s not exercise – it’s movement, and that simple act can burn calories, increase circulation, and reduce the chances of obesity and obesity related diseases. He also found in his research that two people when fed identical diets had varying weights; the more sedentary person gained it, while the other who made simple movements did not.

For many Americans, starting and maintaining an exercise program can be a daunting task for different reasons, but there are some inexpensive and simple ideas to test out at your organization, to keep you and your employees moving:

  • Conduct standing meetings
  • Program pop-up messages to remind you and your employees every hour to get up, walk around, or do a chair exercise.
  • If you have a wellness committee, have the members walk around the office and enlist people who are glued to their computers to walk around.
  • At long meetings, provide breaks every hour or at all-day meetings, encourage people to walk around the meeting space, or a take a break outdoors.
  • Visit co-workers in person instead of calling or e-mailing.

Some long term and more costly ideas include:

  • Re-doing office and cubicle spaces to allow for standing workstations.
  • Provide treadmill work stations or balance ball chairs.
  • Provide Bluetooth headsets to enable employees to walk around while on the phone.
  • If you are on multiple floors, incorporate internal stairs into your design.

Incorporating these manageable yet effective techniques will yield real changes over time, helping to keep your employees happier and healthier throughout the workday.

About the Author

Katie Misata is a Client Service Associate at WGA in the Employee Benefits and Retirement Services Group, supporting her client service needs. She also serves as a WGA Engage in Health Advisor, specializing in client health engagement and working with WGA clients to implement and manage their wellness programs.

617.646.0391| KMisata@wgains.com | Connect with Katie on LinkedIn.

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