We all lead busy lives, and that can often involve sitting down for long hours at work, barely moving as we spend more time in the office and less time being active. But could our increasingly sedentary lives be killing us?
Apple CEO Tim Cook referred to sitting down as the 'new cancer' while talking at a Goldman Sachs conference in San Francisco recently, as part of his talk to promote the many features and benefits of owning an Apple watch.
A shocking statement it may be, but there is plenty of research to back up his claims. Numerous studies have revealed that sitting for long periods is as dangerous to health as smoking, is linked to heart disease and more than doubles the risk of diabetes. This applies regardless of how much exercise people do.
So how can we make our offices healthier places to work despite being encouraged to sit down all day?
Invest in stand-up desks. Many companies are beginning to see how bad sitting is for the body and are choosing stand-up desks in an effort to make employees feel more energetic and prevent slouching. There are different models and adjustable desks are increasingly becoming available at more affordable prices.
Add natural lighting. A recent Human Spaces study reported that up to two fifths of European offices have no natural light within their working environment. Natural light is crucial for protecting vision and can enhance our wellbeing. Working in a light, open space has been shown to increase productivity and overall contentment.
Take regular breaks. Working for hours on end only encourages burnout, so employees should be encouraged to get up and move about regularly, even if it's just walking up and down the office or taking the stairs instead of the lift. Employees may also want to use this time to perform some stretching or basic exercises to get the blood pumping around the body.
Add some greenery. Having a few indoor plants around the office can make you feel more restful and may enhance wellbeing. A study of 385 office workers and their sick leave rates measured the number of plants that employees could see from their desks and found that the more plants they could see, the less sick leave was taken.
Offer healthy snacks. Having dried fruits, nuts and seeds, herbal tea and water easily available can help to boost the energy levels of employees and ensure they are satiated. This means they're less likely to reach for unhealthy choices such as crisps, chocolate or sugary drinks, which create blood sugar 'spikes', and leave them feeling worse in the long run.
All good advice but in many offices you are actively discouraged from getting up and moving around. I think the attitudes of employers needs to change for this to really work.