Thursday, 8 September 2011

Increased activity stressed for office workers

Summer vacations are over for most people, so it’s time to head back to the daily grind. But work today doesn’t usually mean breaking a sweat. More of us are spending our 9 to 5 at a desk — and we’re less healthy as a result.

A study published in May by the online journal PLoS One estimates that Americans are burning more than 100 fewer calories per day in the workplace than they did just a few decades ago, when fewer jobs were confined to a desk.

“We’ve had massive changes in the ‘workplace’ environment, and in this case, it’s a loss of physically active jobs,” said lead author Tim Church, an exercise researcher at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge.

Church and his colleagues found that the number of people in jobs requiring moderate physical activity decreased from 48 percent in 1960 to 20 percent in 2008. The researchers also found a match between the drop in calories burned and increase in average weight during the past five decades.

A few creative types have come up with ideas to increase workplace activity. For example, endocrinologist James Levine of the Mayo Clinic has promoted the treadmill desk, which lets you walk slowly as you work at an attached desktop; factory-made models cost $2,000 and up. There are under-desk step machines such as the $195 Gamercize PC-Sport; if you stop pedaling, your mouse or keyboard stop working.

Toni Yancey, a researcher at the UCLA School of Public Health, has developed and written a book about a 10-minute exercise routine called “Instant Recess.” It includes both strength training and aerobic exercises that can be done within the boundaries of a cubicle.

Whichever approach workers might take, researchers agreed, the most important step is getting up and moving.

“Something’s always better than nothing,” Church said.

Originally posted at

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