Spending eight hours or more sitting in an office without moving poses a serious problem. A few simple exercises can provide great benefits, however.
David Londoño Muñoz, Specialist in Sports Medicine
As the World Health Organization confirms in a report, at least 60% of the world’s population does not perform the physical activity necessary to obtain health benefits from it. The title of the report is shocking enough: “Physical Inactivity: A Global Public Health Problem.”
These worrying statistics do not end here, however. According to the WHO, approximately 3.2 million people die a year from physical inactivity, and people who do not engage in enough physical activity are to 20% to 30% more likely to die as the result of any cause of death.
As David Londoño Muñoz adds, a specialist in sports medicine at the Complutense University of Madrid, according to recent studies, regular exercise can reduce cardiovascular mortality by about 50%. In other words, regardless of other risk factors, individuals who are physically inactive are twice as likely as people who are physically active to have a cardiovascular event.
So why are we so immobile? Staying seated for long periods of time is just as bad as not doing physical activity, “In other words, even if I go to the gym for a half hour or an hour a day which is the worldwide recommendation, to be active for at least 150 minutes a week if I spend a lot of time sitting at work, the benefits will not be the same as if I were constantly moving,” Londoño states.
As Dr. Londoño recommends, it is important to limit sedentary periods to no longer than two continuous hours. Ideally, active breaks should be taken every hour that involve brief stretching sessions or short walks lasting at least five minutes, the doctor states. “In order to sit for the least amount of time possible, places like architectural firms and professional offices for people that illustrate or write are even incorporating standing desks…The problem is that we sit, and we commute, and on top of that we get home and sit in front of the television or computer. All of this sedentary behavior is actually what is killing us.”
The goal is to be more active during the day: commute to work by walking or riding a bike; if you use public transportation, get off a few stops early so that you have to walk; if you drive, park your car as far away as possible; and if you do not suffer from hip or knee problems, take the stairs instead of the elevator.
In the office, small activities can be done: walking directly to deliver a message instead of sending an e-mail; doing as much as possible to make it more difficult to access the items you need to work (such as having to go to another floor or office to use the printer); holding meetings where attendees must stand (which is healthier and makes meetings more succinct, so they finish sooner); or going for walks when talking on a cell phone.
“If I am very concentrated on a project, I should set an alarm that goes off every hour to remind me to get up and move,” the doctor adds. Some simple exercises to do at work include moving your joints (head, arms, and feet); contracting the muscles in your legs; stretching your elbows, shoulders and arms; and doing squats against the wall: “Because each movement and each step counts”.
7,000 to 10,000 steps a day is how many steps a person should take to be healthy.
Employees can be more productive if they are more active; this improves their physical condition and their health, which results in less illness and absence in the workplace.
Exercises to do at the office
For the knees:
Standing quadriceps stretch Bend your knee and bring your heel towards your buttocks until your hand can reach the top of your foot. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds and release. (1 set of 5 repetitions).
For the cervical spine (neck):
Isometric lateral bend. With your chin angled slightly towards the floor and one hand on the side of your forehead, try to push your head aiming your ear towards your shoulder while providing resistance with your hand. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds. (3 sets of 5 repetitions).
For the lumbar spine (lower back):
Seated lumbosacral stretch. Bend your neck and torso down until your hands reach your feet. Hold for 10 to 30 second and return to your initial position. (1 set of 4 repetitions).
For the shoulders:
Posterior capsular stretch. Bend your elbow to 90 degrees, bring your arm across your chest and rest your hand on your shoulder. With your other hand, push your elbow towards you. (1 set of 4 repetitions).