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From 9 to 5—It’s Time to Get Moving!

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.

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  • A coworker and I both have Fitbits, and we are constantly comparing steps in a light hearted and only mildly competitive way. These days we’re both more likely to walk to someone’s office to ask a question, and we both exit the bus early so we can walk the rest of way into work.

  • I just got my Fitbit and am thinking of ways to get those steps in. I think I’ll park further away from the door at work, shopping, etc and I’ll make sure I always take the stairs. That should be a good start anyway. Maybe I’ll get up earlier and walk a mile or two with the dog in addition to the 14+ miles I bike a few days a week. I could also set up my workout station at opposite ends of the gym so all my circuits aren’t right next to each other. Other than that, I’m open to more ideas. Trying to figure out how to get 10,000 steps in each day when I’m currently only getting in about 3,000.

  • I begin my day at 4:00 am with a brisk HIIT walk. My goal is to have logged 5000 steps before I leave the house each morning. I am alsways successful with this goal because I push my self to get the first 5000 in the first 40 minutes of my day everyday. I am a teacher at an elementary school and my goal is to walk up the stairs at least 20 times a day and before I leave work I have to have taken at least 15,000 steps. Since I got my fitbit I challenge myself not to sit while my students are doing independent seat work. I continue to circulate the room answering questions. When they don’t need my help, I keep moving by putting away things and getting our supplies for the next subject or lesson. We have a thirty minute lunch break. I eat for 15 minutes and walk for 15 minutes. My students have 15 minutes of recess. During that time we play music for those who want to line dance to the latest music. I dance with them instead of standing and watching. Being able to look at the screen on the fitbit to get instant feedback is great. I set goals for myself against others in groups I have joined in the fitbit community.

  • Our solution at work was to incorporate activity into our daily routines, instead of tacking it on at the end of the day, like finding time to hit the gym. For example, we don’t drive if we can bike; we don’t bike if we can walk, we don’t sit if we can stand. Suffice to say that my sit/stand desk spends more time in the “stand” position, and the bikes and boots around here are getting some added miles.

    I work in an armory, and we routinely inspect firearms almost every work day. Something to the tune of 100 firearms per month. So to add some intensity to our activities and our work day, I suggested knocking out a fixed number of push-ups with each completed firearm inspection. On a heavy day, each of us can do as many as 250 push-ups. On a slow day, maybe 100 – but that’s 100 push-ups that we otherwise wouldn’t have done.

    Since I’ve gotten a Fitbit tracker, my cohort in the other office is thinking of getting one, and it’s just a matter of time before we’re competing with one another to earn higher step counts.

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