Members of the Fort Knox health community say performing physical exercise at the workplace could be mutually beneficial to employees and employers alike.
“Full-time employees spend at least one third of their time at the office. The majority of our workforce are at desk jobs, and besides sleeping, it is the time that we are most sedentary,” said Maj. Bryan Christiansen, a physical therapist with Ireland Army Health Clinic. “We need to find time to purposely get in some exercise throughout the most productive hours of the day rather than dedicate it all to sitting and looking at the computer.”
Christiansen said sedentary livelihoods are making people’s lives more painful.
“One of the problems we see in physical therapy are patients with low back pain, and that is caused by sitting for long periods of time,” Christiansen said. “You’ve been sitting in the 90-and-90 position and your hip flexors and your hamstrings get tight, both of which attach to your lumbar spine and have a direct correlation to back pain.”
The 90-and-90 position is the sitting position, with back and thighs forming a 90-degree angle and thighs and calves forming the other 90-degree angle.
“I challenge my patients to set a timer and to stand at their work space, to stretch or walk around for 10 minutes out of every hour.”
Kelley Frans, lead health educator at the Fort Knox Army Wellness Center, said inactivity at work can hurt in ways that may feel less painful but are no less damaging.
“Jobs requiring people to sit most hours of the day have been linked to a number of health concerns from high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess fat throughout the body and poor cholesterol levels, which may increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer,” Frans said. “Physical activity and exercise may be the cure-all for the various dangers associated with sedentary jobs and lifestyles.”
Multi-purposing your office as both a place to work and work out makes sense, said Christiansen; but there are limitations.
“Exercises that can be performed in the office depend on the type of space available and how amenable your supervisor is to allowing time for exercise,” he said. “Employees could add calisthenics that require little or no special equipment. By being creative and finding ways to take small exercise breaks throughout the day, an office worker can combat unwanted weight gain, improve focus and reduce stiffness in joints and muscles.”
Christiansen said an office workout should not take the place of a gym workout, although it is a good supplement.
“It would be hard to get cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength training at a high level in the office,” Christiansen said. “[An] office workout could be very helpful to muscle endurance with repetitive exercises; and regular stretching would help with flexibility. To get more out of an office workout, you might add resistance bands, pushup aides or even weights.”
Even seemingly small exercises can make a huge difference, said Christiansen.
“One of the first indicators to go as we age is our balance, and that is something that could easily be [remedied] in an office workout,” said Christiansen. “Folks in their 50s and 60s should do single leg standing activities to improve their balance and reduce their risks for falls.”
Exercise helps in a myriad of other important ways, according to Frans.
“A regular office workout can also prevent or manage a wide range of health problems and concerns, like strokes, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, depression, anxiety, different cancers and arthritis,” said Frans.
Supervisors could potentially see long-term benefits through short exercise breaks, said Christiansen.
“An overall benefit of exercise is healthier employees. Our bodies are more resilient to injuries and less susceptible to sickness with fewer people calling in sick,” Christiansen said. “Constant sitting and concentrating on one thing decreases productivity, and getting the blood flowing brings people back to an assignment refreshed.”
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