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The sitting disease — is it a real malady? Could you have it? Could your employees have it? Find out how serious it can be and what can you do to prevent it.
Michelle Sinkler, Ardmore Institute of Health dba Full Plate Living, routinely asks employers, “Do your employees have sitting disease?”
It may sound like a joke, but sitting disease isn’t funny. Sinkler says although it’s not currently recognized as a “diagnosable disease,” scientists have proved it’s not only real, it’s dangerous. To validate her point, Sinkler refers to a 2008 Vanderbilt University study of 6,300 people that was subsequently published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. The study estimated the average American spends 55 percent of waking time (7.7 hours per day) in sedentary behaviors such as sitting.
So what? It’s no secret most people need to exercise more. Can it really be that important?
Here’s what some experts say as reported by juststand.org:
— “For people who sit most of the day, their risk of heart attack is about the same as smoking,” Martha Grogan, cardiologist, Mayo Clinic n “Today, our bodies are breaking down from obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, depression, and the cascade of health ills and everyday malaise that come from what scientists have named sitting disease.” —James Levine, MD, PhD
— “Prolonged sitting should be considered within occupational health and safety policies and practices just like other elements of posture.” — British Journal of Sports Medicine
— “We’ve become so sedentary that 30 minutes a day at the gym may not counteract the detrimental effects of 8, 9 or 10 hours of sitting.” — Genevioeve Healykl PhD
So when Sinkler asks,” How long does your staff sit?” it’s no idle question.
“However, she has more than questions, she also has answers. For the past two years she says AIH has routinely sponsored Full Plate Living Traveling Trophy activity challenge in Ardmore.
“We were looking for ways to be a positive effect on Ardmore and we realized we could do it with activity challenges,” she said.“Recently the Ardmore Chamber of Commerce, First National Bank, Good Shepherd Community Clinic, Community Children’s Shelter and Full Plate Living all had teams that competed to see who could achieve the highest step average on Leap Year Day. GSCC won the Full Plate Living Traveling Trophy and bragging rights until the next challenge.”
Activity challenges are simply steps. Team participants compete to see how many steps they can take during a challenge. Challenges range in duration. Each participant’s steps are counted by a pedometer.
Sinkler says Mita Bates, Ardmore Chamber of Commerce President and CEO, aided the program by purchasing Pebbles, wristband pedometers.
“Health and wellness are critical components to any vibrant community,” Bates says. “In addition, a healthy population is an asset to employers as they hire individuals for their companies. The chamber, recognizing that the majority of its members are small businesses and do not have access to the wellness resources of larger employers, partnered with the Ardmore Institute of Health to offer the Pebble to its members for a nominal fee.”
Each challenge is operated through www.my inertia.com. Data is recorded from each Pebble and uploaded to the web site. Steps are totaled and each participant can track how many steps they are taking. Teams can also see where they rank in the competition.
“Steps are averaged because teams are different sizes,” Sinkler explains.
The activity challenges have been very successful? Why?
“Most of the challenges are short in duration and the success of the initiative is due to the ease to participate and the competitive spirit in individuals and companies, Bates says.
“They help by organizing people into groups that know each other, or even work together, so that people don’t feel like they’re on their own, or doing their physical activity in isolation,” explains Kevin Brown, AIH President and CEO.
“It’s a way for groups of employees to have fun and keep moving. And in each group there is someone who is a champion of the idea. One of those champions is Shirley Word at First National Bank,” Sinkler added.
Word says the idea of the challenges was so engaging she became an immediate fan.
“It’s such a good way to encourage employees to be active. You can track your progress — always a good thing. We’ve even made up challenges on our own, like the New Zealand marathon and the one in Paris. It’s all kinds of fun and our bank pays for our memberships so that really encourages people to join in,” Word says.
Sarah Larkin, Ardmore Chamber of Commerce and another champion of the program, says the program also has shock and awe value.
“When you work in an office, it can be shocking to see exactly how sedentary your activity level can be if you don’t make an extra effort. The Traveling Trophy and the Pebble program is a great way to get people excited for fitness. Competition is just as high within the office as it is against the opposing teams. We compete against each other but also encourage and push each other. It’s just been a fun way to really get everyone moving.”
Employee groups or organizations that want to promote a healthier work culture for their employees can contact Sinkler at (580)798-4600 ext. 3000.
Sitting disease is a real thing
Why read this?