For many, sitting for long periods of time is unavoidable, but there are some practices that may mitigate the dangers of prolonged sitting.

Americans are sitting now more than ever in history, and it is having negative consequences on individual health and health care costs. Long commutes to work, binge watching favorite TV shows, and hours at the computer—both at home and work—all contribute to excessive sitting. That inactivity contributes to 53 million deaths per year, roughly equivalent to smoking deaths.

Dr. James Levine, director of Mayo Clinics’ obesity program, was quoted in the Los Angeles Times saying, “Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death.”

 There is a growing body of research showing excessive sitting causes increase in heart disease, diabetes, obesity, colon cancer, osteoporosis, depression, arthritis, dementia and back and neck pain. Back pain alone costs $50 billion per year. These health issues cost corporations and businesses in many ways: higher health care costs, absenteeism and lowered productivity.

What is the solution? Movement. People need to incorporate a variety of activities into their daily routine: standing, walking in place, climbing stairs, and simple stretching exercises at their desk. The effects of sitting cannot be mitigated by an evening walk or work out.

Employers must take a serious look at incorporating movement in the work day.  Here are four suggestions for lessening the negative effects of inactivity:

1. Correct Ergonomics
If a worker is stationery, posture and alignment are crucial. At the computer, the head should be straight with chin parallel to the floor. Shoulders should be back with the arms down and relaxed. The keyboard should not be at desk height. Preferably, it should sit below on a pullout tray. Low back curve should be supported by the chair or a cushion. The chair height should be positioned so that the employee is looking at the center of the computer. While reading a book or journal, the text should be held in front of the face rather than in the lap with arms supported and feet on the ground or supported.

2. Encourage Exercise
All movement is beneficial but a set exercise plan that has three components is most effective: Cardiovascular exercise specifically HIIT (High intensity interval training); strength training and stretching. The two best times to exercise are first thing in the morning and at lunch. In the morning (pre-breakfast), has two benefits, 1. to get it out of the way so the other commitments do not interfere, and 2. to burn more fat, since the body has been fasting all night. Is there a way to build in flexibility on office start times? Lunch exercise research shows increased focus, endurance and concentration for afternoon activities. Encourage employees to walk during lunch, park further away, take a yoga or stretching class, or visit a gym close to the office.

3. Provide a Standing Desk/ Exercise Ball Chair
Although sedentary standing is not ideal, early research shows standing is preferable to sitting for hours. Standing desks have become common in the workplace and are no longer considered eccentric. Ball chairs assist with core strength and provide some motion. Not everyone can tolerate a full day on the ball, but periodic use may be helpful.

4. Provide Resources
Some companies offer gym memberships, set timers on the computer for breaks, or encourage employees to climb the stairs. Fitness trackers may encourage employees reach goals and challenge themselves and each other. Corporate fitness programs can be created by utilizing teams and rewarding participants. Ask employees for ideas about encouraging movement.

In summary, employers will save money, lower absenteeism, create happier employees and increase productivity by utilizing these ideas. Lunch and Learn programs on exercise, movement and fitness are an excellent way to start this concept.

Worthington Optimal Wellness was founded in 1987 by Dr. Julia Keiser whose mission has been to create a healthier, happier community. As physical, mental and chemical stress has increased, it became clear that treating the whole person with natural and holistic methods is most impactful. WOW’s core service remains chiropractic care but incorporates massage, nutrition, exercise, allergy relief and other wellness services and products designed to improve all aspects of health. Education of patients and the community is vital and includes in house programs and corporate wellness workshops. WOW currently utilizes three chiropractors, five massage therapists and seven support staff to provide results for patients and the community.