The New York Times recently highlighted a study titled “Trends over 5 Decades in US Occupation-Related Physical Activity and Their Associations with Obesity”; the study concludes that there is a correlation in the decrease in workplace activity with the increase in obesity in America. I don’t think this conclusion is much of a surprise for many of us. I mean, how many times have we re-engineered our work activities to be more streamlined, more efficient since moving around at work doesn’t seem all that fun.
Proof exists all around us; all we have to do is look around at our office mates. I won’t name names but I have a few friends who are complete office turtles: IMing or emailing correspondences to the desk next-door, housing mini water coolers on their desks, and depending on the sandwich cart to deliver lunch. And my favorite proof point, I have a friend who gets his hair cut AT his desk. He doesn’t even have to leave his chair, because the company offers a service in which you can schedule a haircut at your desk. The study also concludes that our national obsession with improving our diet isn’t going to solve obesity; we need to also consider our activity levels at work.
When placed in this framework, it seems to make a lot of sense why squeezing in a few gym workouts isn’t going to solve the obesity program. 30 minutes on a treadmill two to three times a week, to offset the 40+ hours of sitting at our desks? I don’t think so. And I doubt anyone would ask us to revert to a work lifestyle of breaking stones and hauling timber. The researchers conclude that what we should instead do is get more active throughout the day.
Good point, but I think we can take this recommendation a step further. We need to get more active together and support each other by building activity into our social interactions at work. We do it with food and our diet. We talk about recipes, diets, and just how many calories are glazed onto that Krispy Kreme donut (180, btw). We encourage each other to pick healthy restaurants for lunch. But when our minds turn to being more active at work, we automatically think of solitary activities. I admit it — I’ll walk by myself between meetings. I’ll walk outside for a quick break at lunch. But, why can’t we build up the social aspect of walking more at work?
There’s a group here at Fitbit who pledge to walk up the 14 flights of stairs to our office together after lunch every day. Now that’s support and it’s social! (And they make it productive — as they do discuss work). Here’s my question: what can we all do to help our work friends move more throughout the day? Get your thinking cap on and step count up — I’d love to hear your suggestions about what the American work force should do.