Last month, Italian car manufacturer Ferrari SpA implemented new regulations designed to reduce the number of emails among employees. Employees were asked to “talk to their [co-workers] more and write less,” according to the company website.
While this move was designed to boost productivity, Emma Nicolson, an occupational health and safety specialist with the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) in Hamilton, Ont., says this kind of “low-fi” strategy can also have significant health benefits.
According to Statistics Canada, only about 15% of adult Canadians actually get the amount of moderate to vigorous physical activity they require to stay healthy. Much of that inactivity is attributable to the number of hours spent sitting at a desk.
“The problems associated with sitting all day long are well documented,” Nicolson says. “When you are sitting for a long time you, end up being tired because you have reduced blood flow to your muscles. So, you don’t want to go out and you do little physical activity. That leads to a very sedentary lifestyle.”
Nicolson recommends the following tips to increase your level of activity throughout the day:
> Use a standing workstation
Consider getting second desk that you can work at while standing up, says Nicolson. This doesn’t have to mean taking up more square footage, either.
Arrange your standing workstation above your regular work terminal. This way, you can complete your daily tasks either sitting or standing. Alternate between the two positions.
> Build a routine
The best way to work toward maintaining a proper sitting/moving balance is to build it into a routine.
As a rule of thumb, Nicolson suggests, take a five-minute break for every 40-50 minutes that you are sitting during the day. Take longer breaks when you get the chance.
For example, take a brief but brisk walk around your neighbourhood after lunch. For bad-weather days, plan an alternate, indoor route.
“Once the heart gets going,” Nicolson says, “the blood starts flowing and the lungs and muscles stay healthy.”
> Get a good chair
Nicolson likens sitting to “the new smoking.” But there are ways to minimize the damage of sitting for extended periods of time.
Having a chair that encourages proper posture and blood flow can help prevent muscle fatigue. The CCOHS recommends a swivel chair with adjustable seat height, which should be set for 25-35 centimetres below the work surface.
As well, the CCOHS recommends, use a footrest when working at your desk for extended periods.
> Take a walk
Acknowledging that it can be difficult to change work habits, Nicolson says there are still a few tricks you can use to get yourself out of your chair — even during the busiest of times.
For example, take a longer route to the washroom or kitchen. Another trick: when you get to the kitchen, fill your coffee mug or water bottle only halfway, so you’ll have to get up for refills more frequently.
Instead of letting a number of documents pile up on your printer before you pick them up, get up and retrieve the hardcopies every time you print. It may seem less efficient, but it’s more healthy.