With a whopping 80 percent of jobs nowadays requiring minimal or no physical activity, more than 100 million Americans find themselves doing primarily one thing for eight, nine or more hours each workday: sitting. Unfortunately for us, that's not what we're built for, and misusing our bodies can have some serious ill health effects.
"Any extended sitting — such as at a desk, behind a wheel or in front of a screen — can be harmful" to your health, writes Edward R. Laskowski on MayoClinic.org. "An analysis of 13 studies of sitting time and activity levels found that those who sat for more than eight hours a day with no physical activity had a risk of dying similar to the risks of dying posed by obesity and smoking."
There's hope for those who can't give up their current careers for something more exercise-intensive. The same analysis cited by Laskowski found that just an hour to 75 minutes each day of "moderately intense" activity offset the negatives of long periods of sitting. More good news for office dwellers is that, in recent years, we've seen the arrival of a spate of health-focused gadgets and trends designed with the desk-centered workplace in mind. Here, we give you the details on the top five.
They might have seemed silly when they first came on the market, but sit-stand desks have been shown to have significant health benefits over the traditional sit-to-work model. In one study, those offered the desks sat 82 minutes less per day than their regular-desk colleagues. In another, participants self-reported moving more outside of work, feeling stronger and having less pain, particularly in their backs. While you won't get some huge calorie-burn increase by switching from sitting to standing at the office, you could see a reduction in blood pressure.
For those times when you just can't stand, you're going to want a good chair. There's more than just your backside at stake; lousy chairs can actually decrease worker productivity. Ergonomically designed office furniture, on the other hand, has been shown to increase productivity.
If you're a manager or boss worrying that ergonomic seating is going to cost an arm and a leg, rest assured that comfort and proper support can both be had at affordable price points. Ikea's stylish and surprisingly cushy Markus, for example, retails for less than $200. If you're on an even tighter budget, Flash Furniture's Mid-Back Mesh Swivel Task Chair with Leather Seat and Flip-Up Arms fits the bill at under $100.
Paid exercise time
If your company can afford it, consider taking a page from Clif Bar & Company by offering employees paid time to exercise. The energy-bar maker reportedly gives workers each 30 minutes a day to work out, with the result that approximately 80 percent of employees exercise onsite. What's more, the company reports greater productivity as a result of the policy.
Desk exercise equipment
Standing at your desk is a good start, but as mentioned above, it's not going to do any kickboxing-level fat burning. If it's calorie-torching you're after and paid exercise time or after-work workouts aren't possibilities, give desk exercise equipment a try. It can be found at virtually all price points and in a range of types. To start, try a mini exercise bike or mini stepper. These are discreet, small and pretty much noiseless, so coworkers may not even know you're using them. We like the DeskCycle Desk Exercise Bike Pedal Exerciser and the iDeer Under Desk & Stand Up Exercise Elliptical.
You might have heard and seen the TED Talk on this one (author Nilofer Merchant's "Got a meeting? Take a walk"), because it's one of those great but simple, why-didn't-I-think-of-that ideas. Who, after all, says we need to be in a conference room for every meeting? Or in a room at all, for that matter? Whenever a meeting can go wireless -- and chair-less, table-less and wall-less -- let it. You don't have to be the boss to set this policy in motion, either; if it's your meeting or brainstorm and all you need are the people you've invited and their ideas, ask everyone to meet you outside or in the lobby and just start walking. You might get some looks at first, but they won't last long -- and besides, it's your health we're talking about here. So let 'em stare. _____________________
At Metro Offices, our office space was designed with health in mind! Take advantage of the state-of-the-art onsite fitness centers at some of our locations and find ergonomic workstations and others. Browse our locations today.