Why Caring About Your Office Workers’ Health is Good Business: 5 Key Takeaways From Active Working Summit

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Active Working Summit
©2017 Active Working Summit. David Dunstan, PhD, Baker IDI, addresses audience.

Now in its third year of existence, Active Working Summit, held last week in London, UK, was attended by public health experts, opinion leaders, researchers and decision makers responsible for wellness, productivity and engagement of office workers. The event speakers were both engaging and informative, with a clear message ringing consistently throughout the day: we have a ticking time bomb of health issues being created by the way that office workers carry out their work each day.  Yet, worryingly, as the speakers at the Active Working Summit explained, the issue is not gaining the attention it requires and therefore the right actions are not being taken. Here are the five key takeaways from the event.

Health and wellbeing remains on the periphery of company priorities when it should be at the heart of business strategy

Dame Carol Black, adviser on Health and Work to Public Health England and NHS England, argued that organisations are failing to take the issue of health and wellbeing in the workplace seriously enough.  Her view was that it cannot be regarded an ‘add-on’ and there must be a ‘total worker’ health approach by moving health and wellbeing into the very fabric of the organisation.  Her message was a strategic one for businesses therefore: ‘embedment, not add-on’.  So, attitudes need to change and senior executives need to show leadership in facilitating this change.

Investment in health and wellbeing at work makes business sense and can be measured

But if Dame Black argued that not enough is being done for workplace wellbeing, Dr Michael Brannan, Deputy National lead for adult health and wellbeing, Public Health England, emphasised the commercial common sense of investing in health and wellbeing at work.  He explained that as the UK has some of the longest working hours in Europe with 60% of waking hours spent at work, it isn’t an option to not focus on health at work.  But more importantly, from a commercial perspective, he told the audience that for every £2 spent on the health and wellbeing of employees, there’s a return of £34.

Simple solutions can drive quick results

The average UK office worker sits 10 hours each day, with almost 70% of sitting taking place at work and 73 per cent only leaving their desk for toilet or tea breaks, per a shocking new study. Growing scientific evidence continues to draw our attention to multiple health risks (including cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, certain cancers and mental health) associated with excessive and prolonged sitting.  All the speakers verified that the simple process of standing more often could therefore yield dramatic improvements in the health of the average office worker.  The goal for an average day was to accumulate two hours of standing throughout day with the goal, eventually of four hours.

Wearable technology is not the only answer

Dr Dunstan also discussed the benefits that the huge expansion in wearable technology usage has brought; in particular, the awareness of need to be more active and better understanding of how to measure activity.  But he was also quick to add a note of caution stressing that such devices tend to drive users towards focusing on the vigorous activity side, but don’t help break up long periods of sitting.  This conclusion is what led Dr Dunstan to play a part in the development of the ‘Rise and Recharge’ app which is aimed at solving the issue of interrupting prolonged sitting, which is both the real danger but also a simple thing to fix.

Culture is all important in driving change

Time and again during the day the speakers referenced the pernicious culture that exists in offices where a person’s productivity is linked to the time they are at their desk.  The point was made that we need to turn the tables and rather than ask ‘why aren’t you at your desk?’ to ‘why are you always at your desk?’  Breaking this culture is hard though.  As Dr. James Levine pointed out; while it’s okay to be seen to be going to the gym, if you stand up at work (perhaps with a sit-stand workstation), you are seen as ‘just a bit weird!’

In short, change needs to start at the proverbial top. Business leaders need to take a stand here themselves—by providing tools and products that will change the habit of sitting for so long and encourage attitudes to change by changing their own behaviours.

 

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Zombie attack!: fighting Halloween weight gain horrors 

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You, a Halloween sugar zombie? Yes, you! The dead giveaway?  Any time of day, at home or at work, your inner ghoul slips into attack mode, devouring every treat in sight.

It’s never easy to stay resolved to live and eat healthy, but Halloween is an especially scary holiday. And it’s the start of the holiday weight gain season that includes Thanksgiving feasts and concludes with New Year’s Eve revelry. (Then on January 1st the diet detox begins…)

So, how much candy craving temptation will you face this Halloween? Ergotron’s own Bob Hill crunches the numbers.

“I went to Cub Foods last night and got distracted by the approximate 40 feet of shelf space dedicated to Halloween candy.  I like a Twix and Kit-Kat as much as the next guy, but …

Curious, I couldn’t resist doing some in-store math:

The average bag of pre-packaged Halloween candy has 15 servings per big bag x 125 calories per serving = 1,875 calories per big bag of Halloween candy, as a guesstimate.

Now, how many big bags of packaged trick-or-treat goodies were in this Halloween display?  These are approximate numbers:

  • 40 feet of shelf length x 7 shelves high
  • 40 different “columns” of bagged candy stacked about 20 bags deep = 800 bags of candy per shelf
  • 800 bags per shelf x 7 shelves = 5,600 bags total
  • 5,600 big bags of individually wrapped Halloween candy x 1,875 calories per big bag = 10,500,000 calories of Halloween candy in that aisle.”

Good to know – big box stores hold enough Halloween candy to outlast the wildest cravings. But before you let your food monster feast on all that candy, check out this chart showing how to work off the calories in those bite-size indulgences:

Charleston Chew bar (10 minutes of trick-or-treating)

Hershey’s bar (15 minutes of dancing the Monster Mash)

100 Grand  bar (5 minutes of running from villagers with pitchforks)

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup (3 hours of standing versus sitting)

Our Calorie-Burn Calculator shows how adding more standing to your day can help you come back to the living after a feeding frenzy.

Beyond calories, health-conscious parents with trick-or-treating little goblins dread the sugar shock. One pillowcase can hold many pounds of loot and grams of sugar. The American Heart Association recommends that children consume less than 25 grams of added sugar daily. Those fun-size candies add up quickly! An Almond Joy clocks in at 8 grams, Baby Ruth at 10 grams, Dots at 11 grams, Jelly Belly Jelly Beans at 7 grams, Milk Duds at 6.3 grams, SweeTarts (are a bargain) at 2.4 grams, Skittles at 14.5, and Whoppers at 13 grams.

But even endocrinologists specializing in diabetes and child obesity experts warn parents against demonizing sugar. That just makes it more irresistible. You can set limits, though, to keep Halloween candy consumption from getting out of control. For instance, nix the trick-or-treat pillowcase in favor of a small plastic pumpkin. Or ration the candy: give out one piece for every year of age on the holiday, and then one piece each day after.

For a look at how the inner candyfreak comes unleashed on Halloween, watch this hilarious prank video from the Jimmy Kimmel show. For five years, they have asked parents to pretend they annihilated  their children’s candy stash. Some kids are surprisingly forgiving, while others throw monstrous fits. And who can really blame them?

#HeyJimmyKimmelIToldMyKidsIAteAllTheirHalloweenCandy

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Scientific concept: Dormant butt syndrome

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active-vs-sedentary-gluteHave you heard about something the media is calling “dormant butt syndrome”? (AKA “gluteal amnesia” or “pancake tush” or “secretarial spread.”) These funny names refer to a serious condition characterized by tight hip flexors and weak gluteal muscles, as a result of sitting for prolonged periods.

A recent study published by Wexner Medical Center at The Ohio State University suggests dormant butt syndrome may be the surprising cause of pain in the knee, back and hip. How so? When those major muscles are compromised, others must work harder to compensate, which may lead to discomfort or injury in the middle and lower body.

As a remedy, experts recommend unseated activity (such as working at a standing desk), stretches, lunges and other exercises to strengthen glutes.

Find out more about conditions connected to “sitting disease” in the scientific research section of this website.

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Worldwide Stand Up Days!

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Several years ago, most of us weren’t aware of the dangers of sedentary workstyles and prolonged sitting. Today, we know that many office workers sit almost 10 hours a day, which is too much. Regular low-level movement is healthier, so switch from sitting to standing every 30 minutes or so.

To remind us to sit less and move more, engage with one of these upcoming stand up awareness days:

On-Your-Feet-America (00000002)On Your Feet America – April 29, 2016. To learn more, visit their website, follow @getUSAstanding, share #SitLess #MoveMore #OYF16. (Organizers: Get America Standing and Active Working.)

On-Your-Feet-Britain

On Your Feet Britain – April 29, 2016. To learn more, visit their website, follow @getGBstanding, share #SitLess #MoveMore #OYF16. (Organizers: Get Britain Standing and Active Working.)

On-Your-Feet-Canada

On Your Feet Canada – April 29, 2016. To learn more, visit their website, follow @getCDAstanding, share #SitLess #MoveMore #OYF16. (Organizers: Get Canada Standing and Active Working.)

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Get Fit, Don’t Sit – May 4, 2016. To learn more, visit their website, follow @AmDiabetesAssn, share #GetFitDontSit #StopDiabetes. (Organizer: American Diabetes Association.)

Join us in making some simple changes so that you spend more time up off of that chair – at work and at home!

 

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