Sitting: it might seem like an odd job hazard, but the trend towards a more sedentary workplace and lifestyle is getting more attention as we learn about the health risks of sitting all day.
It hasn't been that long since most advocacy was done without the aid of computers and online applications. It's hard to argue against all the benefits that access to technology has brought the movement victim notification, online protective order petitions, virtual visitation, and connection via social media among many others. And no one would argue that in-person support, community organizing, and relationship building could ever be completely replaced by technology. However, as we spend more time in front of a computer pushing the anti-violence against women movement forward, we should not neglect our own personal need for movement in the Movement!
Sitting All Day
Researchers have recently begun to look beyond lifestyle, genetics, and diet and towards the workplace as a factor in personal health. It has been noted that over the decades, the average workplace has gotten more sedentary, requiring only light activity compared to the more physically active jobs of farming and manufacturing fifty years ago. Factors contributing to workplace inactivity may include:
Technological advances (internet, email, etc.) Commuting Declining reliance on public transportation Many more factors contribute to an individuals health, and personal habits and accountability are certainly a large part of the puzzle. However, research findings that highlight weight gain, heart disease, diabetes, and back problems put some amount of responsibility on employers to explore workplace health initiatives and be attentive to the physical activity level of employees.
Movement in the Movement
As Dr. Toni Yancey (2011), a professor in health services at the University of California, Los Angeles explains, We just aren't really structured to be sitting for such long periods of time, and when we do that, our body just kind of goes into shutdown. Muscles constrict, joints compress, and metabolism slows down after sitting for such long periods of time day after day.
Many of us have experienced this first hand and realized long ago that exercise is a key to maintaining a healthy balanced lifestyle. But researchers are pointing out that jogging during lunch or a workout at the gym is not enough. Notions of physical activity need to be broadened and intentionally scheduled throughout the day. There are several things that workplaces can do to encourage physical activity as well as steps employees can take to make sure they break up their sedentary time.
Tips for organizations:
- Encourage routine breaks
- Subsidize gym memberships
- Provide incentives to use public transit
- Set up standing and/or treadmill desks
- Place printers far away from desks
- Encourage face-to-face communication instead of email
Tips for staff:
- Move every hour stand up, dance, wiggle, march, stretch
- Take scheduled activity breaks throughout the day
- Park farther away from the office
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator
- Use a stability/exercise ball instead of a chair
- Drink lots of water; stay hydrated
More tips from Dr. Toni Yancey can be found in her book, Instant Recess: Building a Fit Nation 10 Minutes at a Time. She proposes regular ten minute exercise breaks that utilize music and dance and are easily incorporated into school, work, and community life.
Additional Resources Taking care of yourself requires commitment and regular exercise must be intentionally planned. Whether or not your organization offers support and incentives for physical activity throughout the day, there are several things you can do at your desk and around the office to overcome the cubicle trap. Check out the resources below
Work, move; work, move; work, move. Don't forget it is also good to do nothing for 2 minutes every once and a while!
Does your coalition have examples of workplace health initiatives to share? If so, please share them on your RSP Regional listserv.
Neighmond, Patti (2011). Sitting All Day: Worse For You Than You Might Think. National Public Radio, News/Morning Edition.
Parker-Pope, Tara (2011). Less Active at Work, Americans Have Packed on Pounds. The New York Times, Health/Well Blog.