Get Fit Don’t Sit Day Encourages Employees to Get Moving at Work

May 4, 2015

You may have heard the new phrase, “sitting is the new smoking.” According to several studies, the effects of a sedentary lifestyle may be just that.

According to a recent analysis in the Annals of Internal Medicine, “the amount of time a person sits during the day is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes cancer and death, regardless of regular exercise.”

So what does this mean for employees with sedentary, computer-based jobs? 

“Ideally, employees should be standing up and moving around for about three to five minutes for every 60 minutes of sitting,” says E. Susanne Koch, MS, ACSM-HFS, PES, worksite wellness coordinator for the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH). “As we assume repetitive postures, our body adapts to those positions. For example, extended sitting causes tightness through the chest and front of the shoulders, slouching and over curvature of the upper spine and neck. The lower body is also affected by tight hips and hamstrings while the gluteal muscles become weakened.”

Not only do employees spend six hours or more of their workdays sitting, but commute time, television watching and other sedentary activities should be included.

While the study revealed that meeting regular exercise recommendations does not completely offset the effects of a sedentary lifestyle, it also demonstrated that those who were sedentary or did not exercise at all are at an even higher risk for the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle.

“Individuals who can find opportunities to move throughout the day are best off,” Koch said. “Find reasons to talk face-to-face with a co-worker versus sending an email; walk around and get a drink of water every hour; stand during phone calls; and set aside time in the evening to engage in physical activities that you enjoy.”

Beyond the physical implications of a sedentary life, lack of exercise can also contribute to diabetes, a serious chronic illness that prevents the body from using energy produced from foods you eat.

If left uncontrolled, diabetes can lead to severe complications such as blindness, nerve damage, increased risk of infections, poor circulation, amputations and organ damage or failure.

“There are 1 million Georgians who suffer with diabetes and 350,000 of those Georgians do not know they have the disease,” said Allison Smith, MPH, CHES, policy, program and planning analyst, DPH Chronic Disease Prevention Section. “The common staples of a healthy lifestyle, such as eating a well-balanced diet and regular physical activity, are proven methods to stopping the development of diabetes or aiding in the control of blood glucose levels of those who are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.”

If you’re juggling a busy schedule and not sure how to incorporate more movement into your days, Koch recommends starting off with small, incremental fitness milestones you can attain.

“In order to reduce the amount of time spent sitting each day, you can start measuring the amount of time you sit during the day and then try eliminating two to three hours of sitting during a 12-hour period,” she said. “You can always try to work in more time at the gym, but that’s not the only way to get moving. If a fitness center setting is not your preference, consider conducting a walking meeting in the office, performing stretching and strengthening exercises at your desk or choosing the stairs over the elevator.” 

This year, DPH is celebrating Get Fit Don’t Sit Day with the American Diabetes Association, a national observance on May 6 that inspires Americans to get active.

DPH encourages all of its employees to join the celebration this Wednesday by finding time to get up and move every 90 minutes through simple actions such as taking a brisk walk around the building, taking the stairs on the way to your next meeting or even biking to work.

For more information about Get Fit Don’t Sit Day, diabetes management and how to find more time in your work day for exercise, visit the American Diabetes Association online. 

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