Most of you who are reading this column have jobs and a large percentage of you work more than 40 hours a week at your job. In fact, in the U.S. it is estimated that most fulltime working adults will work over 47 hours per week. Roughly figured this means those of us working full time over our lifetime will spend one-third of their lives on the job.
Not only will most working class people in the U.S. spend long hours working, they will also use the least amount of vacation hours than almost all other countries in the world. For those of you who live in Idaho, we also have the distinct honor of using the least amount of vacation of any other state.
To limit the sedentary nature of office work, we should always be thinking about building some exercise into our daily workplace wellness practices. With so many hours spent at work, you would think physical activity would be a personal and an employer priority.
What is interesting is it seems that neither the worker or the employer is that concerned about keeping active and offering fitness options at work. Recent studies have found that medium to large companies who have actively provided fitness facilities, gym memberships and or other activities had a flat response by the employee using these fitness options.
With current technology, our workplace environments on average require less physical activity and movement than ever before. The vast majority of us spend twelve hours each day sitting in front of an electronic device. Sedentary behavior has become the fourth leading cause of critical health problems. The health impact worldwide is estimated that roughly 3 million people die each year due to chronic illnesses that are caused by a lack of physical activity.
I don’t believe anyone would argue that physical activity is unhealthy. For those of you with a full-time job, you know that you’re spending the vast majority of your work time in a stressful and inactive state, often more than 8 hours a day.
Over the past ten years, there have been numerous health studies that show as little as 2 hours a week of moderate-to-vigorous activity can help prevent chronic health conditions such as obesity, metabolic disease, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, mental health issues and many forms of cancer.
A recent and profound discovery regarding our future state of health is sedentary behavior may be more deadly to your health than weight gain and other chronic health issues. Yes, the consequences of sedentary behavior over time has the potential to shorten your life significantly.
In 2016/2017, there were a few studies that looked at the effectiveness of workplace health programs and found no evidence that they significantly changed health behaviors or medical costs for companies that provided programs. So this begs the question, why promote workplace wellness if it does not improve any aspect of an employee’s health?
I believe that culturally, both in how we practice self-care and how the employer puts a premium on a healthy culture, is driving these results. These poor health statistics that relate to workplace wellness initiatives are indicative of a lack of commitment and consistency by both your employee and employer to follow through on these wellness programs.
Now let’s keep in mind that a workplace wellness program does not have to center on an exercise program. Merely standing, stretching, walking and moving can make a difference. Employers should encourage physical movement and even mindful practices by offering a quiet space for breaks. Happy and healthy staff are proven to be more productive. Unhappy, stressed and sedentary staff are shown to lack motivation, productivity and can become a negative factor in the workforce.
Start walking groups during lunch or before work and encourage standing and stretching with your fellow employees. Do not rely on the employer to set these activities up, do it yourself. See if your employer will offer standing desks and, to the extreme, if your the boss will buy a treadmill desk. That is not to say if your company provides a gym membership, you should not take advantage of the group membership… you should.
Employers need to establish a positive and supportive environment toward wellness. Employees need to be consistent and view both the workplace wellness and personal health goals as a permanent lifestyle shift. Both employer and employee must make health and wellness a team priority, then the research and studies will start showing a positive impact on health and healthcare costs.
Judd Jones is a Certified Primal Health Coach and Fitness Consultant. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and www.jhanawellness.com.