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The Sedentary Lifestyle Of The Workplace Is Killing You

Written by: Patricia Faust, MGS, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

Think about your typical day at the office, or even your home office. What is your activity level during your workday? Not surprisingly, most people respond they spend most of their day sitting behind a computer or sitting through endless meetings. Exhausted after their day at the office, these people go home, eat dinner, and then plant themselves in front of the TV for the rest of the night.

We human beings were built to move. This is not a new revelation. We have inherited the DNA hardwiring of our prehistoric ancestors. Recent studies have shown that people who work in offices or home offices spend between 10 – 11 hours per day in a seated position. Occupations in which there is little, or no movement of our bodies are known as “sedentary work” and are characterized by low energy expenditures, similar to the energy expenditure we have at rest. (The Dangers of Sedentary Work, 04/26/22, Ergonomics)


According to the World Health Organization, 60 to 85% of the population worldwide does not engage in enough activity. This makes physical inactivity the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality! Wellness programs have emphasized the importance of having a healthy diet and aerobic exercise to offset the effects of time spent being sedentary. However, studies have indicated that even if you exercise for 30 minutes a day, you may not be able to counteract the effects of sitting throughout the rest of your day. The solution seems to be more movement spread throughout the day. Mayo Clinic found in “13 studies of sitting time and activity levels, found that those who sat for more than eight hours a day with no physical activity has a risk of dying similar to the risks of dying posed by obesity and smoking.” (Health Risks of a Sedentary Lifestyle. June 17, 2021. Lifespan)


Health Effects of Sedentary Lifestyle


An article posted by John Hopkins Medicine showed that physical inactivity contributes to the following:

  • Increase the risks of certain cancers

  • Contribute to anxiety and depression

  • Risk factor development for certain cardiovascular diseases

  • More likely to develop coronary heart disease

  • More likely to be overweight or obese

  • May cause a decrease in skeletal muscle mass

  • Can cause high blood pressure

  • Can increase cholesterol levels

Technology has contributed to this decline in physical activity too. Over the past 10-20 years modern technology and how we live has robbed us of everyday normal movements that were a part of our ancestors’ lives. If we compare ourselves to our parents and grandparents, we can clearly see our modern way of living does not require us to move as much as they did! Ask yourself these questions:

  • When was the last time you needed to stand up to answer a landline phone?

  • How many elevators do you use compared to taking the stairs?

  • How many hours do you spend sitting at work/home?

  • Have you designed your workspace to reduce the need to get up?

  • How long is your commute? Are you sitting during your commute?

  • Have you used online shopping?

(Bowden, S. August 5, 2020. Risks of Being Sedentary at Work)


How Does Being Sedentary at Work Affect Productivity?


It is very clear that our sedentary lifestyle is a threat to our health and wellbeing. But there is a more immediate problem that hasn’t been fully recognized before. Our brain is an energy cannibal, and it doesn’t have its own energy source to fill the need. When we are sitting, focusing, concentrating on our workload, we are draining our brains of energy. But, when we are physically active, we push our heart to beat faster and in doing so, we send a greater amount of blood, oxygen, and carbohydrates to our brain which keeps our juices flowing. Our brain requires 20% of the oxygen, carbohydrates, and blood to meet its energy needs. When we sit for lengthy periods of time, our heart doesn’t send enough blood, oxygen, and carbs to the brain to supply an adequate expenditure of energy to think on a higher functional level. Instead, we get fatigued, and struggle in mental activities. Productivity decreases because we hit a wall. For our brain to function on a continual high level we must engage in physical activity throughout the day.


Reducing the Consequences of Sedentary Work


Changing our work habits can be challenging. Here are a few tips on incorporating physical activity throughout your day:

  • Keep reminders every hour to get up from your chair, incorporating standing and walking activities for more than two and a half hours per day.

  • Pay attention to small tensions in the body and get out of the position for a few minutes, stretch and have brief moments of physical activity at work. These are called “exercise snacks”.

  • Take advantage of technology.

    • There are cell phone apps that help calculate the number of steps per day.

    • 10,000 steps per day is still ideal.

    • Utilize sit-stand workstations that improve metabolic balance and decrease the chance of musculoskeletal disorders, like low back pain.

Always remember – the fight against a sedentary lifestyle involves the movement of work.


(The Dangers of Sedentary Work. 04/26/2022. Ergonomics)


For more info, follow me on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and visit my website!


 

Patricia Faust, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Patricia Faust is a gerontologist specializing in the issues of brain aging, brain health, brain function, and dementia. She has a Master in Gerontological Studies degree from Miami University in Oxford Ohio. Patricia is certified as a brain health coach and received a certification in Neuroscience and Wellness through Dr. Sarah McKay and the Neuroscience Academy.


My Boomer Brain, founded in 2015, is the vehicle that Patricia utilizes to teach, coach, and consult about brain aging, brain health, and brain function. Her newsletter, My Boomer Brain, has international readers from South Africa, Australia, throughout Europe, and Canada.


Patricia’s speaking experience spans the spectrum of audiences as she addresses corporate executives on brain function, regional financial professionals on client diminished capacity, and various senior venues concerning issues around brain aging and brain health.

 

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