Far too many people sit still for long periods every day. Interrupting long periods of sitting still affects both our mental and physical well-being and there is a great deal you can do as an employer to help your employees to get more movement into their working day.
New figures from Falck Previa’s health and work environment survey show that almost a third of 14,000 employees all over Sweden sit still for 7 - 9 hours every day. 16 per cent say that they sit still for 10 - 12 hours. At the same time, research shows that sitting still for more than 8 - 9 hours a day involves a higher risk of Ill health.
“We have removed much of our everyday activity. Today we can have food delivered to our door, drive the car to work and take the lift instead of the stairs. This means that many people have to plan their physical movement, it is not something that just happens,” says Åsa Miemois, health promoter at Falck Previa.
Employers who plan wellness initiatives mustn’t forget that this should be a benefit for all employees
All movement counts
Earlier this year, the Public Health Agency of Sweden issued guidelines for physical activity and sitting still. One of the main messages is that all movement counts. Research also shows that no great amount of movement is needed to start showing positive effects on health.
“Interrupting periods of sitting still is different from starting an exercise programme. Taking this as the starting point, I think that employers have a much better opportunity to be able to motivate and inspire their employees to move around more.”
Regularly getting up during the day for a few exercises, changing working position or a short walk keeps the body’s different systems awake. Moving around raises the metabolism and blood circulation. When we keep the blood circulation moving, we help to clean away dangerous fat from the blood vessels and gain a more even blood sugar level. Concentration and performance also improve and many people feel fitter.
“Many employees say they would like to move around more, but they feel unable to manage it. That’s why it is so good to have opportunities for movement in the workplace. Moreover, companies that invest in wellness and measures that support activity get this back many times over in the form of increased productivity and less sick leave.”
Sitting still less during working hours
There is a long list of things an employer can do to interrupt long periods of sitting still. Introducing a step competition, offering an extra fifteen minute break to employees who take a walk at lunchtime or subsidising the entry fees for a race are some examples.
“Employers who plan wellness initiatives mustn’t forget that this should be a benefit for all employees, not just for those who already take exercise and train regularly. Lower the threshold so that everyone can join in.
Tips for interrupting long periods of sitting still
- Install a program on computers or mobile phones that gives reminders about exercise breaks. A few minutes every half hour reduces the risks from long periods of sitting still.
- Take a lunchtime walk every day.
- Include exercise breaks in long meetings.
- Start with small amounts of physical activity and over time gradually increase the frequency, intensity and length.
- Join up with a colleague, friend or partner to help to remind each other about regular activity.
- Try to see what kind of everyday activities you can include, such as walking to the shops, carrying grocery bags, working in the garden, mowing the lawn, baking without a bread machine etc.
- Don’t forget that all movement counts!