The Ill-Effects of Prolonged Sitting in the Workplace: How HR can help

Human resources are one of the most critical components of an organization, with companies investing avidly in the employee wellness programs to factor in this dynamic force. Healthy and productive employees translate into a prosperous business, however, there are a lot of grim factors like prolonged sitting, which might stifle the progress towards a healthy workforce. A sedentary lifestyle i.e., a lifestyle with irregular or no physical activity, is a common scenario for most today, especially standing true for the employed sector. Excessive sitting at the workplace and sedentary lifestyle imply links to various issues like cardiovascular disorders, obesity, diabetes, etc.

American Journal of Public Health states that excessive sitting (8 or more hours a day), heightens the risk of some chronic diseases and premature death by 10-20%.

How prolonged sitting affects your body?

Impacts of Prolonged Sitting: How HR can Help Employees

Internal organs

  1. Heart: Prolonged sitting affect your heart elevating risks of cholesterol and high blood pressure. People with a sedentary lifestyle are more than twice likely to suffer from cardiovascular issues.
  2. Pancreas: You are highly prone to diabetes and other diseases, as idle
    muscles don’t respond well to insulin making pancreas over-productive.
  3. Various forms of cancer: Prolonged sitting could be linked to cancers of breast, colon, endometrium, etc. Though unclear, it could be due to excess insulin or decreased antioxidants in the body due to sitting.

Muscles

  1. Abdominal muscles: When you sit too much on your chair, you don’t use your abdominal muscles much, causing mushy abs. Your abs get stronger if you move or stand. Strong muscles support your back, which in turn reduces back pain.
  2. Glutes: Sitting encourages limp glutes as they become limp and soft, doing nothing. On the other hand, strong glutes increase strength and stability in the body aiding in the ageing process.

Upper body

  1. Brain- Sitting for long, triggers foggy brain, as the brain function slows down. Muscles in motion release beneficial chemicals in the brain, pumping fresh blood and oxygen throughout.
  2. Neck- Sitting for long periods often causes you to tilt or strain your neck forward, towards the keyboard or the screen. It can happen while using smartphones as well when multitasking or otherwise, which in turn can lead to a strained cervical vertebra causing permanent imbalances.

Back

When you sit for long periods, your upper body weight rests completely on your sitting bones, causing potential vertebral disc damage.

Lower body

Sitting for long causes slow blood circulation throughout the body leading to swollen ankles and possible blood clots due to poor circulation in the legs too. It can also lead to osteoporosis as weight-bearing activities stimulate the bones, making them grow thicker and stronger.

How HR can contribute towards this growing menace?

  • Change in company policy by offering incentives that motivate employees to engage in healthy practices.
  • Encourage walking meetings.
  • Less use of digital communication and more of one-to-one interaction by going to the respective desks.
  • Encourage the use of the staircase instead of elevators.
  • Promote walking meetings during breaks.
  • Encourage Minor exercises and stretches in between meeting breaks like squats, leg lifts, etc.
  • Keeping ergonomics in mind, while designing the workplace, like putting standing desks.
  • Encourage habits that promote walking like parking away from the office building, keeping the trash bin a little away, standing while reading reports or emails, a break every 30 minutes to stretch, etc.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, the risk of mortality reduces by 17% when 30 minutes of sitting was replaced with moderate exercise. The effect doubled when it involved exercising, a bit more intense than walking. Fun part? Half an hour doesn’t need to be done, at a stretch, scattered activities throughout the day are equally effective.

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