How to reduce sedentary behaviour during your work day

We have all heard how important regular exercise is for our health, but did you know that avoiding long periods of sitting, is just as important? In fact, the more time you spend sitting or in a sedentary position, the greater the risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. This is incredibly alarming, given that it is something we are all guilty of doing, both at home and in the workplace. Think about it, there’s a pretty good chance that you sit down at least half of your waking hours!

When we talk about sedentary behaviour, we are talking about the amount of time that someone is sitting down or laying down while they are awake. You sit during your commute, during your workday, to read a book, watch tv and even when you are taking a bath. Now that’s a lot of sitting, and for some, it accounts to more than 8 hours of their day. You may be thinking that it’s okay as you get a good half hour to one hour of gym time in before or after your workday. Wrong! Unfortunately, a study published in The Lancet states that even if you get some physical activity into your day, yet remain sedentary for long periods of time, remaining sedentary for too long can actually offset the benefits of regular exercise!

Mindless sitting

It’s the mindless sitting that gets us. We often find ourselves sitting, even though we don’t need to. Sitting has become our default position. You take a phone call, you find a seat. You go to a meeting and you grab a chair. You jump on the train, you take a seat.

So, as employers’ we don’t just need to encourage employees’ out of their sedentary behaviour, we need to actually motivate them with practical tips.

Practical Tips

Walking Meetings
Why not hold meetings on your feet? A walking meeting forces employees away from their desk. Also consider holding walking meetings outside which provides employees with the added benefit of time in nature and some much-needed fresh air.

This is ideal if you work with small groups. If there are just a few of you, take a nice walk to stretch your legs, exercise, and boost creativity.

Standing Meetings
If walking meetings aren’t your things or if your team is too large, try a standing meeting. Hosting a standing meeting will mean that your team are more engaged in conversation and it will help to keep the duration of the meeting to a minimum.

Review the Workspace
If you have employees who sit at a computer for long periods in the day, you could look into height-adjustable desks, standing workstations, treadmill workstations, and ergonomically designed chairs and equipment.

The design of your office can also play a role here. For example, if employees have to walk to collect print-offs or make photocopies they are force to get up and get moving. Try moving your photocopies to the other end of the office or moving the bin that once sat right next to the desk to the opposite side of the room. Additionally, you should encourage employees to break up their tasks so they are often changing posture and position to avoid repetitive strain injuries.

Follow the 20-8-2 regimen
Providing your employees with sit/stand desks gives them the perfect opportunity to follow the Sit-Stand-Stretch regimen (also known as the 20-8-2 regimen) developed by Cornell University’s Dr Alan Hedge. Based on his research studies, he recommends that the best way to find balance in the workday is to break up every 30 minute cycle with 20 minutes of sitting, 8 minutes of standing and 2 minutes stretching. That would mean that for every 7.5 hour work day (excluding lunch), employees would have a total of 5 hours of sitting, 16 sit-to-stand changes, 2 hours of standing and 0.5 hours of moving.

Movement Breaks
For employees who have do not have the opportunity to move away from their desk, consider providing them with a quick standing or walking break every half hour or so to help combat the risk of sedentary behaviour. A great way for the employee to manage this would be for them to use an app such as Break Time, or set a timer to remind them to keep moving.

Always Take the Stairs
Encourage your employees to choose the stairs over the lift whenever they can. This will add that little bit of extra physical activity to their day while reducing the amount of time in a sedentary position. Another way to encourage this is to hold a challenge to see who can tackle the most stairs monthly.

Take regular Breaks
Every break should be viewed by the employee as an opportunity to get up and move around. Not only does it provide your eyes with a rest from looking at a screen, it also gets their blood pumping. What you can do as the employer is create a comfortable place for employees to escape to and remain active. A nice garden, table tennis table or gym area are ideal suggestions.

As we all know, it is very easy to sit too much. However, by encouraging your employees to make a few simple changes throughout their day it could drastically reduce their risk of health problems.