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Activating the Workplace

Active WorkstationMillions of American workers spend most of their time sitting at their desk leading a sedentary lifestyle. Health experts agree that sedentary workers are at an increased risk for a variety of health problems including obesity, diabetes and heart disease, to name a few. In fact, it is the rise in desk-related positions that is often cited as one of the fundamental reasons for obesity in America.

A research study published in the Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise journal found that workers who spend the majority of their time sitting have a more than 50 percent chance of having a heart attack event. There are now machines doing most of the physical tasks that workers used to do. And the rise in programming and other computer related jobs has boosted the number of sedentary positions, whether at home or at the office.

But with a recent trend towards a healthier lifestyle, workers are standing up for better health in the office. It is recommended that adults should spend at least thirty minutes per day exercising to achieve health benefits, according to the Mayo Health Clinic. The cost to provide healthcare to employees is approximately $10,348 per year, per employee. And since healthier employees reduce health care costs and sick time, many companies have integrated corporate wellness programs into their organizations. Some companies are even providing active workstations at the office to help desk-bound employees improve fitness while at work.

What is an Active Workstation?

An active workstation is the combination of furniture and equipment that enable employees to be more active at work. These active workstations can include treadmill tables, bicycle desks, standing desks, ergonomic furniture and other fitness equipment that allow employees to have a more active work experience without leaving their desk or the office. They can respond to phone calls, reply to emails and deliver presentations while exercising in place. An active workstation can even be a designated fitness space with equipment employees can use to stay active while at work.

Active Workstation Benefits

Increased circulation, burning calories, and increased physical activity are some of the benefits that active workstations can provide to desk workers. But health experts caution that active workstations are not a replacement for aerobic exercises. Employees should also include walking, swimming, weight lifting and eating a healthy diet in their wellness routine. Parking further away or riding a bike to work and taking the stairs instead of the elevator is a good start.

Active Workstation Standing Vs Sitting

But not everyone agrees that an active work station provides the health benefits that many may believe. A study of office workers in a Finnish software company discovered that the small improvement in physical activity only slightly reduced upper body tension. There was also an increased risk of varicose veins and lower back pain, a common ailment when standing for too long. A study published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health reported that standing burns 88 calories per hour, only 8 calories more per hour than sitting. On the other hand, walking burns 210 calories per hour. It is suggested that employees who use standing desks should stand for no more than 60 minutes per day until they are fully acclimated before standing for longer periods. The bottom-line is that active workstations can help promote a healthier lifestyle at the office when other healthy habits are part of an employee’s daily routine.