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You’ve probably heard about the idea of the active office but what that means for you and your particular workplace might be less clear. We know we need to be more active in our workplaces, but how does that apply to your particular office? What exactly do you need to do to be more active at work—and is being more active at work even worth it?
Not only is it worth it—by a long shot—but it’s easier than you might think to create an active office. It doesn’t even have to look like yoga balls and treadmill desks! If you’re still on the fence about whether you should stark making changes, or about how to find the workplace lifestyle that’s right for you, you’re in the right place. We’ve compiled our research to put together some key lessons that will help you make up your mind, and make it as easy as possible for you to stay healthy at work.
Know The Risk
Once you understand how important it is to change your behavior, actually taking steps to do so will come naturally. You don’t have to do tons of research to learn how harmful it is to live a sedentary life—and yet so many of us do this, for so many hours a day! Our bodies just weren’t designed to sit around all day without moving. Most of us are aware of this on some level, but really understanding what’s at stake will probably make you want to make some changes.
Sedentary lifestyles have become a huge risk factor for health conditions like obesity, heart disease, and even strokes and early deaths. And as we spend more time sitting down in office spaces, work itself is becoming a risk factor for these largely-preventable diseases. The WHO attributes as many as 2 million deaths per year to physical inactivity, which makes sedentary lifestyles one of the top 10 leading causes of death worldwide. It’s not dramatic, then, to suggest that making lifestyle changes in your workplace could be a matter of life and death.
Even the short-term risks of sitting too long are serious enough to inspire change. Sedentary workplace lifestyles are linked to mobility issues, including a loss of bone density and stiff joints. Think about how your neck feels after hunching over a computer all day. That’s what’s happening to your whole body, from your neck to your toes, whether you feel it or not. And it can cause serious cardiovascular problems like poor circulation, which can, in turn, cause blood clots, which lead to strokes and heart attacks. And your butt will thank you if you stop sitting on it – using your leg and glute muscles more will help keep them toned as well as functional, and even keep weight off your gut.
Happy and Healthy Employees are Productive Employees
If the health risks weren’t enough to convince you, what if we told you that you’d be better at your job if you were more active at work? That’s right: research is showing a strong and growing link between productivity, efficiency, and workplace activity. In other words, you might actually be a better employee if you spend less time at your desk!
Numerous studies conducted across the world have demonstrated a relationship between activity and productivity, as well as the opposite. Surveys show that workers who spend too much time at their desks take numerous breaks throughout the day just because they’re bored or antsy. Of course, it’s good to take breaks, but better to do so with intention. If you’re taking breaks just because you’re bored, you’re less likely to be mindful of your productivity. On the other hand, workers who took conscious standing breaks after a period of seated were reported to be the most productive.
The results are clear: if you want to get more done, get up more!
Get Your Boss Involved
We’re all social creatures, and peer pressure is a driving factor for adults, not just teenagers, even if we don’t want to admit it. The fear of disrupting the status quo is a huge obstacle to people wanting to become more active in a culture where sitting all day is the norm. The solution? Change the culture!
Nobody wants to be the odd one out, and people are especially less inclined to make waves if they fear getting in trouble with management. So why not get management involved from the start? Getting reinforcement—not just permission, but real support—from your boss from the very beginning of your workplace health journey will help you achieve all your goals. It’ll nip coworker complaints in the bud because when you change the norm, others feel more open to changing their own lifestyles. And if your boss understands that you’ll be an even better employee if you’re more active, they’re more likely to institute real policies that can help your whole workplace be healthier.
If you make the case for workplace wellness, making it clear that you’ll be more productive if you’re more active (and they will, of course, save money on health care if you’re healthier!), your boss might even go ahead and invest in solutions like standing desks for you.
What You Do At Work Counts More Than What You Do Outside
If you’re postponing making workplace changes because you’ve got a gym routine, you might want to reevaluate. Studies show that the health risks of sedentary lifestyles aren’t combated very much by anything that you do in your spare time, even if you’re spending hours being intensely physically active. In other words, if you sit on your butt for 8 hours a day, no amount of cardio and no number of squats can erase that health deficit. If you want to be healthy, it’s critical to change what you do at work, not just after work.
Of course, how you get to and from work can be a part of this change. Walking or biking to work is a great start to adding fitness and activity to your overall workplace lifestyle, and getting active in the morning might just motivate you to stay on your feet throughout the day.
Make The Sit-Stand Switch
You’re convinced. You’re motivated. But what’s the most practical way to sit down less at work?
Even if you have a desk job like accounting or programming that requires you to be constantly at a computer, don’t think you have to sit down the whole time. A standing desk is a simple, subtle solution that will keep you standing up as much as you want or need, while still giving you the option to sit down for tasks that require it.
You can buy a standing desk or an adjustable height model that you can raise or lower when you want to sit or stand. There are dozens of models on the market that you can customize to your exact needs, or to the dimensions of your desk or office. And if you’re not sure yet what you want, it’s easy to improvise. You can DIY a standing desk with minimal materials and little to no financial investment. A DIY standing desk is a great option for people who are just starting out on the sit-stand switch because you can figure out what works for you best on a budget before you invest in one yourself. Or better yet, figure out exactly what works, and then tell your boss why they should get one for you and all your coworkers! Check out this post on how to choose a standing desk for more info.
Every Little Bit Counts
Don’t get discouraged before you start by thinking you’ve got to jump off the deep end into workplace wellness. Even making small changes at work can have huge health benefits, and those small changes will help you build lasting habits that can snowball into larger lifestyle shifts.
If you’re starting at a standing desk, start small to get into a routine. Try sitting for 50 minutes out of an hour, and standing up to work for just ten minutes. You’ll probably feel more physically comfortable right away because your body will recognize that you’re giving it what it needs, but don’t be shy about easing yourself into the routine. Stick with ten minutes an hour of standing until it comes so naturally that you don’t even have to time yourself. This might take a week or two. Then, you can try sitting for twenty minutes an hour for another week, until eventually you’re sitting and standing for half an hour in shifts.
Moderation is key, even for healthy choices! There’s no reason to make workplace wellness difficult when it can all be this easy. And always remember: your health is the most important thing that you have. Investing in your health is investing in yourself, for the day, and for your whole future. Once you know that, lifestyle shifts will come naturally, and your boss and coworkers should completely support you. If you show them this article, they’ll probably want to get involved too!