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Get up, stand up for work place health

David Wilson By David Wilson

Before you read on, and in the interests of your wellbeing, please stand up. Sitting down for the next five minutes could be harmful to your health...

I’m Still Standing

The new ‘disease’ of current and future generations is something we’re all familiar with...

...Sitting down.

Research conducted back in 2014 identified that long periods of sitting down (specifically sedentary behaviour) increases our risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers – and let’s not forget the obvious link to obesity.

For years, adults have challenged children to get outside more, and spend less time in front of TVs and video games, for the good of their health. But for many adults, their workplace could be a major factor in damaging their own health and wellness. So, isn’t it time we took a little bit of our own advice and changed our workplace behaviour?

Person walking outside

Oh, Sit Down

The theory behind the belief that sitting is bad for our health, and moving more is good for it, can’t be argued. If we spend more time doing stationary activities (such as working at a desk) then we will expend less energy, our bodies will perform restricted movement, and in turn this could increase the risk of a range of deleterious health conditions. On the flip side, if we move more, we have the potential to use more energy and improve our body’s functional abilities.

Simple, yes?

Person taking picture on hill top

There are all sorts of hacks and health articles to help us to move more and sit less, but are they all as simple as they seem when we try and apply them to our everyday lives?

The answer is ‘probably not’, especially when we consider most people’s working patterns and environments. One example of a healthy alternative to sitting down at work, is the standing desk.

Stand By Me

Standing desks are great.

Standing desks offer us the chance to be more mobile and active while at work, and there’s evidence to suggest that standing whilst we work also makes us more productive.

But let’s be realistic. Of the millions of desks across the UK it’s simply unrealistic to expect a swathe of Facebook-esque changes in our office cultures. In the real world, the traditional desk and swivel chair will continue to reign relatively unchallenged in the future. Costs, logistics and health and safety will not be bending any time soon, despite the weight of evidence suggesting that there’s a better way to work, and to live.

Person walking with dog

Let’s not forget that sitting at a desk is just part of the problem. We sit while driving, commuting, socialising, eating, watching TV; the list goes on. Our sedentary lifestyles could possibly be the biggest health risk we face, with sitting a simple contributing factor. Most of us want to be healthier, and similarly we want this to be achievable without significant inconvenience or change in our lifestyles.

In the business world of working smarter not harder, and appreciating that one thing standalone won’t always work, here are a few ideas to get us up more.

Person overlooking scenic view

1) The Stair Master

An oldie but a goodie. It’s time to come down from our lift addiction and realise that taking the stairs is a step in the right direction. You don’t have to tackle all 20 floors in your office straight away, build it up floor by floor as you get fitter.

2) Weigh Me Down

Complementing our own body weight to do simple tasks is a great method of getting active. From a well-hidden ankle weight, carrying water bottles or packing a bag with some heavy items, this is a great way to make what we’re doing anyway into a little workout.

3) Have a break, have a health hack

It’s sometimes tempting to skip a break to ‘get the job done’, but by doing this you not only risk those sedentary health issues, you are also putting your own productivity at risk. Don’t be fooled that staying put gets the job done.

Take five minutes to stretch your legs and get outside into the fresh air, and you’ll be a healthier happier more productive you.

4) The Lean Office

For years companies have looked for ways to make our working environments as lean and as ergonomic as possible. It’s time to ditch the lean office though, for the lean you.

Can your working environment be planned to give people the opportunity to get up and move around more?

Business meeting outside

5) 6,7,8

Steps (and counting them) is a great way to begin to monitor our activity levels. You don’t need an expensive device – most phones have a step counter in them now – you just need a simple method to measure your progress and set some personal goals. Or how about getting your office involved in a charity step challenge?

Person commuting to work

6) Stand and Deliver

In sales it’s a recognised technique that making calls stood up gives us more authority and more positive business outcomes. And it’s healthier too! Win win.

7) Travel to outer space(s)

Parking next to the door, or wishing the bus driver would drop us at our desks, is now a no go. We love to be as close to work as possible to save us the walk, but it’s time to change your habit to change your health.

Find a parking space further away or get off the bus at a different stop, this extra five minutes activity could equal an extra two miles walking a week! There are many simple and subtle changes we can make to our working lives that will improve our long term health. And by introducing changes today, we can kick start the process of avoiding the long term problems that sitting down can cause.

It’s time to face up to our secret vice and step away from the swivel chair, even if it’s just a few times every day!

Published 10/10/2019

David Wilson By David Wilson


Northumberland aficionado, long distance walker and tour/walking guide.

Find out more about David Wilson.