This is the third post in a six-part series focusing on the Six Dimensions of Wellness: emotional, occupational, physical, social, intellectual, and spiritual. Each post features a different dimension of wellness. This post will discuss physical wellness and the importance of combating a sedentary lifestyle.
When California resident Leigh Ortiz decided to give exercise a chance, she couldn’t imagine the transformation that would result. Workouts, combined with eating clean, and holding herself accountable, left her 100 pounds lighter. She feels powerful and confident.
“My attitude, confidence, and outlook on life all changed for the better because of my HIIT (high intensity interval training) workouts,” Ortiz says. “I am loving the muscle tone that I have; I feel powerful and that I can do any activity instead of sitting on the sidelines. Working out is the highlight of my day and I have to force myself to take rest days now.”
We all know that we’re supposed to get a certain amount of exercise each week, as an inactive lifestyle causes risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and early death. But have you thought about how much time your population spends sitting each day? According to some research, four consecutive hours of sedentary behavior is enough to undo the benefits of one hour of exercise. Americans sit an average of 13 hours each day. At first this statistic can seem quite shocking, considering that when you add another eight hours of sleep, Americans are sedentary 21 out of 24 hours a day. But when you consider time spent sitting at your desk, eating, and commuting, the hours add up fast. Once individuals surpass 10 hours of sedentary time per day, their risk of cardiac problems increases substantially, but sitting less than three hours a day can increase life expectancy by two years. So what can you do?
The good news is that office workers don’t want to spend the whole day glued to their chairs. One study found that workers don’t want to sit more than four hours a day, or 53.8 percent of the work day, although they spend 73 percent of the day seated. This means there is great opportunity for you to enable your population to be more active.
The ergonomic solution
The first step is to give office workers the best possible experience at their desk, since they do spend so much time there. Consider investing in office chairs that reduce stress on the spine by keeping the body in an upright position with a backrest that supports the natural curve of the spine, a headrest that supports the neck (preventing arthritis of the neck), and height adjustment that ensures the knees are at a 90-degree angle. You can also invest in sit-stand desks, because research shows they boost productivity, reduce sitting time by over an hour each day, and improve musculoskeletal problems. An employee’s muscle activity is two and a half times higher when standing at work, and standing desks reduce risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 40 percent.
Squeeze in a little desk workout
Okay, so the employees you work with are all set up with their ergonomic desk and chair (and maybe even a keyboard and mouse if you really want to go nuts!). Now what? Encourage employees to make the most of their time at their desk. This could mean sharing videos demonstrating workouts like leg lifts while sitting, desk squats during moments of down time, or lifting up out of one’s chair to exercise their core. Or hang posters around the office that remind employees, “How long since you last stood up?” and “Feeling sleepy? Stand up for a bit.”
Take it a step further
Now that your population has been using the standing setting of their desk for part of the day and has been doing minor exercises in their office or cubicle, they’re eager to really move. Great! There are so many opportunities throughout the day to engage your population with physical activity. Try holding walking meetings instead of sitting in an office. Invest in an onsite fitness center free to all employees. Encourage employees to go on walks during break time. You can motivate them by holding quarterly competitions to see who can contribute the most to Charity Miles (an app that donates to the charity of your choice based on the amount of miles you move) or conducting a month long step challenge. It can even be something as small as encouraging employees to walk over and talk to coworkers instead of messaging them. Every little bit helps.
What if employees don’t have time for long walks or workouts?
This is where the exercise routine that helped Ortiz go from a size 24 to a size 8 in just 15 months comes into play. HIIT is a form of exercise in which short periods of extremely demanding physical activity are alternated with less intense recovery periods. It originated around 1910 with the coaches of Finnish Olympic runners who wanted to train their athletes by focusing on alternating fast and slow runs. Since then the principles of HIIT have been applied to all kinds of workouts.
Benefits of HIIT
Only 23 percent of U.S. adults are getting enough exercise, which puts the majority at risk for high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, depression, and cancer. Many people cite time as their reason for not working out, but HIIT can be completed in just 10 minutes. This is a huge benefit for people who have busy schedules and is great for incorporating exercise into the workday without taking too much time away from work. A great workout can be accomplished during break time!
And believe it or not, HIIT yields the same health and fitness benefits as long-term aerobic exercise, and in some populations works better than traditional aerobic exercise. One study found that HIIT improved cardiometabolic health as much as traditional endurance training while taking a fifth of the time. HIIT is superior to moderate-intensity continuous training (MICT) in improving cardiorespiratory fitness and it increases the amount of oxygen a person can utilize during intense exercise (VO2 max). Another great benefit of HIIT is that after such an intense workout calories are burned for up to 24 hours in the muscle recovery phase. The employees you work with will love knowing they are burning more calories even after they return to their desks!
Vicki Griffin, RN, decided to give HIIT a try because of the cardiovascular benefits. At the start, she couldn’t run a lap or do more than a few pushups. But Griffin kept at it, and got more than she was hoping for. “I noticed the results of the endorphins almost immediately,” she says. “Even when I’m sore, I always have a positive attitude and a spring in my step! Plus, I sleep like a baby at night.”
So how can you reap the benefits of HIIT in the workplace?
HIIT is perfect to introduce into the workplace because it doesn’t take a lot of time, or require a lot of space or equipment. Try running a weekly 10-minute HIIT class during lunch hour/break time where employees exercise extremely intensely for one minute out of the 10 minutes. One study found that participants who did this three times a week over a period of six weeks improved their endurance by 12 percent. If you want to get creative hold a 50-yard dash at the next company picnic. Encourage employees to take the stairs every day. Organize a monthly jump rope day. Challenge employees to a contest to see who can do the most burpees in one minute. The options are endless!
Give your members the opportunity to experience HIIT for themselves and track their progress daily by sharing our Get Fit with HIIT health challenge with them. You can even turn it into a month long health challenge as a part of your wellness program.
Ready to get started?
Download our health challenge “Get Fit with HIIT” which includes:
- A basic quiz for participants to see how much they know about HIIT
- A personal account of how well HIIT-style workouts served one individual
- The benefits of HIIT
- Tips on how to best execute HIIT workouts
- A calendar to track HIIT workouts each day
Wellsource, Inc. has been a premier provider of evidence-based Health Risk Assessments and Self-Management Tools for four decades, making us one of the longest-serving wellness companies in the industry. With a strong reputation for scientific research and validity, we offer an innovative family of products that empower wellness companies, health plans, ACOs, and healthcare providers to inspire healthy lifestyles, prevent disease, and reduce unnecessary healthcare costs. Our assessments connect lifestyle choices with healthy outcomes, measure readiness to change for maximum results, and drive informed decisions with actionable data.
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