Friday 19 October 2018
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Sitting is the New Smoking

William Shrank M.D.William Shrank, M.D. is the chief medical officer at UPMC Health Plan, which is part of the UPMC Insurance Services Division and also includes UPMC WorkPartners, LifeSolutions, UPMC for Life, UPMC for You, UPMC for Kids, Askesis and Community Care Behavioral Health.

The prevalence of sitting jobs has risen 83 percent in the United States since 1950, according to the American Heart Association. The result? Employees are spending a lot more time being sedentary each day.

Research is clear that sitting for long periods of time each day over many years can increase a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, higher levels of stress, as well as neck and lower-back pain. No wonder health experts coined the phrase, “sitting is the new smoking.”

The Benefits of Standing
Simply standing more each day provides overall health benefits and increases work productivity among employees. For example, research shows that you burn 30 percent more calories when you’re standing than when you’re sitting. Standing more each day can also help improve posture, increase blood flow, rev your metabolism, and increase your energy and alertness.

Small Moves, Big Benefits
Here are some quick and easy changes employees can make at work to improve their health and productivity — starting today:

  • Go vertical: Take the stairs instead of the elevator as you enter and exit the office each day, and get in the habit of walking up the escalator instead of standing.
  • Take frequent detours: Take an extra lap or two around the office on your way to the restroom, coffee pot or printer.
  • Communicate like it’s 1989: Instead of sending emails to your co-workers, walk to their desks on a regular basis.
  • Make it automatic: Find an app for your phone or computer that prompts you to get up from your chair every 30 minutes and move around.
  • Take breaks: Get in the habit of taking micro-breaks, such as standing while talking on the phone.
  • Toss it farther away: Move your trash or recycling bin away from your desk so you have to take a few extra steps.
  • Have mobile meetings: Instead of sitting in a conference room for a 30-minute meeting with colleagues, turn it into a walking meeting.
  • Give up your seat: Choose to stand on public transportation rather than sit.

Keeping It Going Long Term
Corporate wellness programs help employees to start fitting more activity into their workday. And it’s important to keep that momentum going over weeks, months and years.

One key is for employees to tap into their essential motivation for wanting to get more active. It’s often not enough to simply say that you should exercise more, or should burn more calories, or should get a standing desk. Many employees need more tangible and basic reasons, such as wanting more energy or focus during their workday. Or perhaps they want to lose five pounds in the next month or want to be able to keep up with their kids or grandkids at the park.

For extra motivation to help employees to get more active each day, check with your health care plan to see if they offer health coaches that will help to guide your staff and stay on track with their activity goals.

For more information about UPMC Health Plan, please visit