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4 Strategies to Combat Sitting Too Much at Work

Too much desk-jockey time hurts our health, but we don’t have to take it sitting down

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A few years ago, we were all familiarized with an unnerving adage: Sitting is the new smoking. We’re mobile creatures, and sitting at a desk and staring at a screen for eight hours a day isn’t exactly what doctors and scientists recommend.

That’s why women who get plenty of light physical activity are 42% less likely to die of heart problems. It’s why incorporating standing and stepping into your workday can improve glucose and insulin sensitivity.

It’s amazing how much a little movement affects our overall health. Even more amazing is how we often discount basic physical activity as legitimate exercise. Too often we fail to strike a balance between sprinting two miles a day and sagging at a desk for hours without lifting our loafers from the carpet.

Common Barriers to Physical Activity

One of the most common barriers to reaping the benefits of throughout-the-day movement is astonishingly simple — it involves change. An organization may need to rearrange rooms and allow for open floor plans to facilitate mobility, a shift that isn’t always well-received by employees.

Increased space in an office doesn’t always result in more movement in the workplace. One group of workers at Apple even walked out of the office to protest against the campus’s new open floor plan. Lesson learned: Employees tend to rank physical activity at work a few rungs below privacy and flexibility.

Simplicity is the key to establishing a physical-friendly workspace without sacrificing productivity. This way, you or your employees aren’t stuck in a segmented series of desks devoid of human interaction. Dynamic spaces, however, are also adaptable enough for a user-friendly immediate work environment.

See if the following strategies help create this minimalist yet mobile approach:

1. Make movement convenient.

Getting enough movement throughout the day can include everything from stretching to periodically walking around. The key is to make these options convenient for your employees. Placing trash cans and recycling bins in common areas of the office, for instance, encourages everyone to get up more frequently. Maybe you convert a little-used room in the building into a workout facility.

2. Get out of the office.

Keeping yourself and/or your staff on foot is good, but there’s only so much potential for physical activity inside the office. That’s where you get creative about where to hold meetings and other work-related tasks.

Who says conferences have to be in a bland room with no windows? Who says you can’t discuss business outside with clients or co-workers? Walking meetings can really get the blood (and the ideas) flowing. Consider shifting locations to the park, the beach, or even a local coffee shop within walking distance.

3. Stay hydrated.

Equally important to both your brain and your heart is drinking water. And it’s not just because you need it to survive. Just like everything else in the office, strategically placing watercoolers in common areas challenges you and your colleagues to move around. “Watercooler talk,” then, doesn’t have to be just a hub for discussing the latest show you binged.

4. Set a good example.

If you’re a supervisor or a manager, your employees’ actions always depend on your leadership. Fitness is no exception. Seeing you standing at your desk and combining meetings with “outside time” should inspire them to do the same. Your co-workers and staff might even help you start a walking group or a yoga club.

There’s a reason you hear stories of fitness centers being extra crowded in January before thinning out. Going to the gym for hours every week is daunting at best and seemingly impossible at worst. Thankfully, incorporating these strategies into your workday saves you time and makes the effort more manageable. Take it one literal step at a time.

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