'Sitting disease'. The outcome of a modern day office...

Katharine Green
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‘Sitting Disease’. The outcome of a modern day office……

Recently I read an article in the Telegraph highlighting new research that reveals the health risks of a sedentary lifestlyle. There is increasing evidence linking excessive sitting to poor health, with higher risk of diabetes and cardiovascular related illnesses. Too much sitting can cause increased cases of high cholesterol, lower back pain, colon cancer and slow blood circulation, to name but a few. This is directly linked to a sedentary office day. A number of studies have looked at the impact of health and wellbeing on productivity. All the research suggests that unless there is an increase in physical activity levels, the financial burden to companies from days being lost through ill health will soar.

Sedentary jobs have increased by 83% since 1950, and the government ‘Foresight’ programme estimates that ‘presenteeism’ defined by the loss of productivity that occurs when people come to work ‘ill’ costs the UK economy as much as £15.1 billion every year. Not only does a physically inactive workforce cost more, but is a less productive one.

With back, neck and muscle pain being the highest single cause of ‘illness’, I cannot go without mentioning the benefits of Nordic walking to these specific areas of the body.

Another very common cause is stress. According to a major new survey by the Institute of Directors only 7% of employees have discussed mental health issues with their staff and three quarters of all businesses don’t have mental policies in place. The YouGov survey in January 2015 showed that one-third of employees (32 per cent) say stress and anxiety make it difficult to get their work done and 93 per cent of businesses say that personal worries and stress can adversely affect staff performance at work.

It is a common known fact that regular exercise improves mental health, so surely promoting physical activity in the work place will not only help reduce stress like symptoms, but many of the other common causes of absenteeism and ‘presenteeism.’

An Italian company called Technogym, founded by Nerio Alessandri in 1983, is best known for building high-end exercise equipment found in thousands of gyms across the world. Alessandri drive is also to improve his own employees (all 2,200 of them) quality of life by championing the benefits regular exercise, correct nutrition and a positive mindset. In return, his active and happy staff have helped see profits soar.

They are encouraged not to be sedentary, and when they are ‘sitting’ they are on high tech yoga type balls, that helps improve posture and keeps their body ‘performing’ micro-movements that tighten the core and help reduce back problems. They have a two-hour lunch break where they are encouraged to exercise and a healthy canteen with no puddings. Not only has their absenteeism and presenteeism reduced, but there has be a rise in levels of concentration and individual effectiveness. Technogym has now become a leading corporate wellness consultancy.

There are numerous ways that Nordic walking can be incorporated as part of a working day. Some refer to it as ‘Walkie-talkie’, which can either mean a business meeting whilst walking, or chatting with colleagues as a way of unwinding, and taking in copious amounts of fresh air whilst exercising. Many prefer exercising with others - see our blog on the Benefits of Group Exercise. Whatever your choice of exercise, whether it be nordic walking, walking, running or biking, as an employer encourage your employees to get active, as it can only be beneficial to your staff and your business, and don't forget to lead by example!

see also: Sitting Is The New Smoking

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