Move more at work - Happy + Well : Happy + Well

Move more at work

Written by on February 11, 2016 in Wellness, Work with 0 Comments

UnknownThe amount of time many of us spend on our bottoms is unprecedented in human history. You only have to consider how physically active our working lives were until relatively recently when the office took over from the farm as the number one place of employment. Now in order to get the job done, most of us are obliged to stare at a computer screen for hours on end, all the while remaining seated. Not surprisingly this is taking a toll on our physical wellbeing.

The good news is, a fascinating study done some years back and the subject of this interview with Professor David Dunstan from the Baker IDI Institute in Melbourne, found that those who sit for long periods can improve their health by breaking up their sitting with frequent short bouts of activity.

According to Dunstan whose team has spent a number of years researching the phenomenon, some of the negative impacts of prolonged sitting are an increased risk of metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease and early death. And no, despite what you might think, regular zumba or RPM classes you diligently do after work won’t help mitigate these harmful effects. Duncan says, “Within the studies we’ve undertaken and others have undertaken, even when you factor in people’s leisure time physical activity … their relationship with sitting time remains robust, that is, it appears to be independent of leisure time physical activity.”

In this particular study, a group of overweight individuals were asked to participate in three experimental days. On day 1, they sat for the entire time. On day 2, they took a two-minute break from sitting every 20 minutes during which they walked slowly on a treadmill. On day 3 conducted one week later, subjects took short regular breaks from sitting as before but during these, they walked briskly.

The aim, says Dunstan, “was to look at the post-meal response for glucose and insulin. When I say post-meal, we gave people a high calorie, high glucose, high fat meal and then we wanted to see how well the body responded over that remaining [five hour] period.”

What they found was by introducing regular activity breaks lasting no more than a few minutes, there was a substantial reduction in the glucose response to that meal. Not only that, both walking slowly and walking briskly yielded practically identical results, no small matter given there are definite limitations to moving around too energetically in an office environment.

Another positive is that the required length of active time away from our desks was found to be so minimal, virtually the time it takes to walk to the tearoom and back, there’s no way bosses can ever complain of it impacting on staff productivity.


Duncan Young is the Head of Workplace Health & Wellbeing, User Experience at Lendlease and is presenting at both Happiness & Its Causes and the Wellness at Work conference in April. He will be discussing the health benefits of moving more at work and how you can incorporate more movement into your life.


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