It is no secret that most of us spend too much time sitting and not enough time moving. While we can schedule in exercise and limit how much TV we watch, a big hurdle to achieving a more active lifestyle lies in the nature of our jobs and workplace environment. Many of us spend a large part, if not almost all, of the workday sitting.
Employers can help improve employee wellness by creating a healthy work environment and encouraging mindful lifestyle habits. In addition, implementing well-designed worksite health promotion programs not only improves employee health but also saves money for employers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Stats That Should Have Us on Our Toes
When it comes to our current lifestyle, consider this:
- Less than 20% of Americans have physically active jobs (Medline Plus).
- Only 1 in 3 adults get enough regular moderate physical activity (CDC).
- 300,000 Americans die every year likely as the result of a sedentary lifestyle and poor eating habits (CDC).
Meanwhile, studies show that being physically active helps prevent:
- Some types of cancer (colon, breast, etc.).
- Type 2 diabetes.
- Cognitive decline.
- Heart attack.
- Loss of muscle.
- Bone loss.
- Colds and flu.
Help Your Employees Put Their Best Foot Forward
To effectively help your employees adopt a more active lifestyle, you need to have the right plan in place. The following four tips are a great starting point:
Share with employees ways to be more active at work.
These small changes can make a big difference:
- Get up from your chair and move around at least once an hour.
- Find opportunities to stand (e.g., when talking on the phone).
- Have “walking” or standing meetings with co-workers.
- Go speak with a colleague in person instead of sending an email.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Use your break or part of your lunch hour to walk around the building.
- Stretch and do small exercises during the day. (See the QuickSeries’ Fitness at Your Desk handbook for a series of stretches and exercises you can do at your desk.)
Encourage employees to be conscientious of their posture and working positions.
Next, offer the following tips on changing work positions during the day, as it is unhealthy to work or sit still in the same posture for long periods of time:
- Make small adjustments to your chair or backrest.
- Stretch your fingers, hands, arms and upper body.
- Stand up and walk around for a few minutes periodically.
- Perform some of your tasks standing instead of sitting.
Check out the CDC Worksite Health Scorecard.
The CDC Worksite Health ScoreCard (HSC) is a tool designed to help employers identify gaps in their health promotion programs and prioritize high-impact strategies for health promotion at their worksites. Employers, human resource managers, health education staff, wellness directors and others responsible for worksite health promotion can use the HSC to establish benchmarks and track improvements over time.
Understand and apply NIOSH’s Total Worker Health® concepts.
Through its Total Worker Health® Program, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends an integrated approach to addressing sedentary work environments. An integrated approach is one that protects workers from work-related injury and illness and helps them advance their overall health and well-being, on and off the job. This document describes organizational practices that can reduce the risks associated with sedentary work.
For more information on employee wellness products, browse the QuickSeries® library of guides, including Fitness at Your Desk, Managing Workplace Stress and Conflict and Improve Your Emotional Wellness at Work.