Study: Office Workers Can Protect Health by Getting Out of Chairs

The reality for many workers is that their job requires them to be seated at their desks or in their cubicles for hours at a time, making phone calls, writing reports, answering emails and completing paperwork. While many people accept this notion of being “chained to their desk” as just part of their job, a new study reveals that this mindset might not be the best for their health.

Here, researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center examined information on 2,223 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which is essentially a comprehensive database run by the National Center for Health Statistics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Specifically, the researchers examined the average daily physical activity and average sedentary behavior times of the participants, who ranged in age from 12 to 49 and had no underlying history of asthma, heart disease or stroke.

After crunching the numbers and adjusting for multiple variables, the researchers determined that the overall positive impact of one hour of exercise for the participants is equivalent to the overall negative impact of six hours of sedentary behavior.

In other words, they found that 20 minutes of exercise is just as beneficial health-wise as two hours of sedentary behavior is harmful health-wise, and that this has profound implications for those who spend hours at a time working in desk.

“We also found that when sitting for prolonged periods of time, any movement is good movement, and was also associated with better fitness,” said one of the primary authors. “So if you are stuck at your desk for a while, shift positions frequently, get up and stretch in the middle of a thought, pace while on a phone call, or even fidget.”

In addition, the researchers suggest that office workers set aside time during the day to talk a short walk and/or make a conscious effort to incorporate more movement into their daily routine (i.e., using the steps instead of the elevator, using an exercise ball as a desk chair, hosting walking meetings, etc.).

It’s important for deskbound office workers here in North Carolina to heed this advice and not put their health ahead of their work. Furthermore, it’s important for them to understand that they do have options for securing workers’ compensation benefits in the event they suffer a work-related injury.

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