Our modern working habits are responsible for increasingly sedentary lifestyles – hours spent tethered to office desks or sat around meeting room tables. Habits we have continued into life during COVID-19 lockdowns, fixed to video calls in one spot, for sometimes hours at a time.
‘Sitting disease’, as it has been coined, has become a worrying phenomenon linked to serious health conditions with implications for workers globally. Staying in one position for prolonged periods not only adds to the static load on our musculoskeletal system that can increase the risk of back, neck and shoulder pain, but can also inhibit the effective circulation of blood through the body, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease. This is in addition to a huge range of other health concerns which can be caused by our sedentary lifestyles, which include:
- Low mood
- Reduced concentration
- Sleep apnoea
- Premature ageing
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Blood clots
Keep-fit fanatics; this includes you too!
Thinking this does not apply to you because you squeeze in that gym session most mornings or cycled home from work today? Unfortunately, it does.
Even if you regularly do an hour of physical activity, if you are spending hours sitting at work all day you are still exposed to the risks from extended inactivity, a group categorised by scientist Katy Bowman as the ‘actively sedentary’.
Standing up is not enough
While the benefits of moving more during the working day have become clearer – increased productivity, improved mood and reduced pain and discomfort – the solutions have been harder to adopt. From standing desks, to exercise balls for chairs, and even treadmill desks, over the last five years a slew of inventions have been jumped on as the solution to our stillness, and many of these we will not have access to at home.
However, what so many of these trends have failed to tackle is our need to change our idle habits when it comes to moving at work. When we are deep into a task it is easy to forget to take breaks and keep moving, but fear not, the motivator you need is close at hand.
How technology can untether us from our desks
While technology is often the culprit that keeps us stationary – working, watching, or scrolling – it also has the power to get us moving and transform our health and wellbeing. The advancements in wearable technology, such as smartwatches and fitness trackers, are now outpacing that of smartphones and offer the ability to track our movements and biometrics like never before. However, even if you do not fancy a wearable – there are lots of ways technology can get you up and out of your seat each day:
Schedule move reminders – either by using one of the many apps that offer a gentle reminder to move or by setting alerts in your calendar, build in regular intervals in your day to get up from your workspace and move. Free, open-source programmes like Workrave combine break reminders with daily work time limits and even suggest stretches and exercises you can do at your desk.
Compete with a colleague – lots of wearables and apps offer the ability to track your activity against others, but finding an app solution like WellOne enables you to directly compare to others within your organisation rather than the fittest friend in your phonebook. Motivate yourself and your colleagues to move more with some friendly competition – a useful way to keep connected as we see our normal working patterns change.
Drink more water – forget using a large bottle on your desk to top up your drink. Instead, opt for small glasses that require regular filling so that you have to get up more frequently.
Combine this with a hydration app that reminds you to drink more regularly and an additional benefit is the extra comfort breaks you will need too!
Make lunchtime an adventure – use your lunch break to fit in extra steps and track your progress with a free walking app. Challenge yourself to walk faster or further each week, and go with a colleague or someone you live with to make the time social too.
Stretch – from chair dips to squats, there are great resources online for office workouts – either print out a stretching guide or watch a guided workout on YouTube. If working from home, you can get your colleagues to join in via video conferencing.
Move your meeting – try a walking meeting using video conferencing, and using a voice memo app on your phone to capture notes as you move.
Go further – if you are in the office, connect your computer to the printer furthest from your desk; even better if it is on a different floor and you need to take the stairs.
At Aon, we are also using technology to help to improve people’s health and wellbeing and enable healthy behaviour change across organisations. If you are interested in using technology to measure and manage not just the physical, but emotional, social and financial wellbeing of your people, talk to our specialist advisers about our innovative WellOne app.
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