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Sitting is the New Smoking

Three tips to help you get moving at work

November 8, 2013



Many of us spend most of our time at work sitting in our spongy desk chairs, in front of our glowing computer screens, typing away and not getting any exercise. It’s bad for our health. In fact, a recent study showed that sitting for more than six hours each day is as bad for us as smoking.

The workplace is a great place to start making changes that can have huge impacts on our health. Getting 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least five days a week helps to lower the risk of serious illness and improve mood. Many employers have found that encouraging employees to get more exercise is a smart business move as well, because active employees have positive attitudes and perform better on the job.

“Business leaders have the power to implement small changes that can make a big impact on their employees,” said Pierre Onda, MD, Kaiser Permanente medical director for Employer Health and Wellness. “Enacting a physical activity break policy gives employees license to be more active during the day and sends a message that it’s part of the company culture. When individuals feel supported and have the opportunity to incorporate healthy behaviors at work, they’re usually more productive and less likely to be absent due to illness.”


Here are three tips from Dr. Onda to help you be healthy while at work:

Take the Stairs

It may seem obvious, but many of us don’t do it. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator can do so much for your body. It tones your legs, increases blood flow and gets your brain working. Be smart about taking the stairs, though: hold the hand rail, especially important if you are wearing heels or carrying anything.

Instant Recess

Remember when you were a kid and you had a recess to go outside and run around for a few minutes? Adults can follow that same line of thought. Instant recess takes five minutes and is a great way to get up out of your chair to clear your head. Find a quiet corner or hallway and do some simple stretches, run in place, do push-ups or whatever exercise you like. Taking a break from your work helps you to focus better and improve blood flow.

Take time to walk around your building

We live in beautiful Colorado with more than 300 days of sunshine. If your office is next to a park, try taking a walk around it at lunch. If not, find a safe place with a sidewalk, a trail or other pleasant location to take a walk.

These tips can help you get active while at work and even encourage your employees and co-workers to join you to create a culture of health. Leaders at University of Denver saw an opportunity on their campus to do just that. In 2012, they launched Thrive Across America, a fun and easy online program offered through HealthWorks by Kaiser Permanente. Employees sign up online to go on a virtual tour of some of the nation’s most interesting places. When employees log physical activity, it appears as progress along a preset route. Stops along the route include national parks, famous recreation areas, wildlife preserves, cultural attractions and historic landmarks. It gets employees moving!

Craig Woody, chief financial officer, University of Denver, helped initiate Thrive Across America at the university and is pleased with the results.

“The fact that our employees have a sense that the leadership of the organization cares about their wellness, cares about the way they feel and how productive they are at work — I’m just glad we’re doing these things,” said Woody.

This program made physical activity a fun, team-focused event that built relationships as well as healthier bodies for the employees at the university.

“Thrive Across America, in my mind, actually saved my life,” said University of Denver employee, Lynn Hawrylak. “I’ve lost weight, I know I’m healthier, they’ve reduced my blood pressure medicine. Everything is getting better and better and better.”

For more information on creating a culture of health at your worksite, click here.