By now I’m sure you’ve seen the headline “Sitting Is the New Smoking.” The consequences of sitting for long periods of time are getting a great deal of attention because the health effects are as varied as they are frightening—and many of us are at risk.
Excessive sitting can lead to incurable diseases like diabetes, hypertension or heart disease. The physical ailments may be felt more immediately and can result in musculoskeletal disorders or repetitive strain injuries (commonly caused by excessive movement but also caused by too little movement). All told, extended periods of sitting should be considered a major workplace hazard.
Given the impact of sitting all day, it’s important for employers to minimize the amount of sitting their employees do. This is especially true in office environments where sitting in a chair is the norm. Here are three ways to encourage workers to reduce how much they sit.
- Take frequent stretch breaks. This applies to sitting at work, at home and driving. When driving long distances, people are often focused on getting to their destination and fail to stop for stretch breaks. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety recommends a 5-10-minute break for every hour spent in a stationary position. Even if workers are on their feet all day it’s still important to make time for stretch breaks.
- Get active. Exercise is an important part of overall body health. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic physical activity per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more. Promote walking at lunch and provide support for off-the-job fitness activities.
- Promote standing. Employers have a number of options to promote standing. The most obvious is to outfit workstations with standing desks. Even if that’s not feasible, holding standing meetings or suggesting that workers stand whenever they’re on the phone can reduce the amount of chair time throughout the day. Setting up workstations to accommodate the body’s natural posture can also control ergonomic risk factors when workers are required to sit.