Unless you work for a large company with a gym on site, working out on the job probably isn’t an option. Still, there’s no reason why you can’t move more. Think about it. If you work an office job, you may sit as many as eight hours a day. That’s a lot of sedentary time! Is it time to change your work environment to include more opportunities to move?
Why is movement during the work day so important? Several studies show time spent sitting can negatively impact your health. In fact, sitting for more than six hours a day is linked with greater mortality from all causes. Some studies even show an hour of structured exercise daily can’t compensate for the negative health impact of too much sitting. Sitting too much is an independent risk factor for mortality. That’s a compelling reason to get moving!
Plus, sitting too much is linked with health problems, including insulin resistance, weight gain, back/neck pain, and varicose veins. Hours spent sitting can lead to physical health problems – but that’s not the only reason to move more at work. Sitting too much can have other non-physical repercussions as well. Let’s look at some other ways more movement at work can benefit you.
Who doesn’t want to get more done at work? Simply standing instead of sitting may help you check more off of your to-do list. In a new study, researchers looked at the impact standing versus sitting had on productivity. The participants were a group of call center workers. Some of the workers used conventional desks while others used desks they could comfortably work at while sitting OR standing. Researchers monitored their productivity over a six-month period.
The results were eye-opening. Workers who used the adjustable desks and stood for a portion of the day were 46% more productive than their colleagues with a conventional desk. They also sat for 1.6 fewer hours, on average, each day. Additional time spent standing means more calories burned and, according to some studies, less sitting improves the way your body handles glucose and lipids. That’s important since several studies link sitting too much with a greater risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Why were participants with access to a standing desk more productive? According to the researchers in the study, the participants felt more comfortable standing rather than sitting. If you sit for a long time, your muscles and joints stiffen due to reduced blood flow and, if you’re prone towards back or neck pain, sitting makes these problems worse. Plus, most of us don’t sit in a chair in an ergonomically friendly way. So, you might discover that standing at work is comfier than sitting, once you adjust.
Wouldn’t you like to dazzle your colleagues (and boss) at work with your new ideas? More movement and less sitting may help you be more creative. We know that structured exercise can enhance our thinking skills – but simply sitting less may too.
In one study, researchers compared the creative output of workers who spent their day in a room equipped with tables and chairs to encourage sitting. Another group worked in a room without chairs or tables to encourage movement. What they found was the group who didn’t have access to a place to sit and work were more engaged and free-flowing with their ideas.
To bolster your creativity, you don’t have to turn your workplace into a workout center but simply sit less. Because of findings like this, a growing number of large companies are encouraging employees to use a standing desk.
If you can slip in a short walk at work, your creativity level may rise even more. A study carried out at Stanford University showed walking, both indoors and outdoors, is a creativity booster. Plus, based on this study, the enhancement in creativity persists even after you sit back down. If you’re struggling to find a creative solution to a problem, try taking a brisk walk to “clear your head.”
Improvements in Mood
Is your stress level high at work? For many people, juggling job and family life is a challenge and it’s easy to let the frenzied pace of corporate life get you down. Is there a simple solution? Less sitting and more standing/movement may help you deal with stress better and even improve your mood. One study showed people who sit less during the day not only had less back and neck pain but also showed improvements in mood. Plus, some studies show that moving more lowers the risk of depression.
You might think sitting conserves energy and you’d feel more energetic due to increased energy reserves – but that doesn’t play out in practice. Most people feel more energized when they move around. That’s not surprising since movement increases blood flow and reduces stress.
The Bottom Line
Are you convinced that movement matters? The benefits of sitting less are many. Whether you tame your sitting habit by getting a standing desk or simply get up out of your chair more during the day, it will pay off. One strategy is to alternate between standing and sitting at 30-minute intervals to break up the time you sit.
If you don’t have access to a standing desk, take a walk and stretch break every 30 minutes. Take advantage of the time you have. Can you walk during lunch or during breaks? Then do it. Stay motivated to move by investing in a wearable fitness tracker with an alarm to remind you to get up.
Stay active even when you’re at work – it’s good for your health, your mood, your creativity, and your productivity.
Eurekalert.org. “Boosting Productivity at Work May Be Simple: Stand Up”
IDEA Health and Fitness. “Benefits of Working Out at Work”
PLOS One. “Sitting for just a couple hours has measurable (and negative) health impact” April 2012.
The New Republic. “Yet Another Reason Why We Should All Stand at Work”
Stanford News. “Stanford study finds walking improves creativity”
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Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2014 Apr;46(4):718-23.
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