February is the time of year when New Year’s resolutions tend to fade, with people going to the gym less, healthy foods giving way to the heavy “comfort” food of winter, and people being less motivated to take care of their health. According to a recent ComPsych Tell It NowSM survey, 65% of employees say their workplace—where most people spend eight or more hours per day—is contributing to this trend of failed New Year’s resolutions.
When asked whether their work environment helped or hindered their New Year’s resolutions (i.e., losing weight or exercising more), employees responded:
- It has hindered – work stress causes me to eat poorly/exercise less – 37%
- It has hindered – the social environment influences me to eat poorly (dining out; having food around) or exercise less (sitting at meetings and at desk) – 28%
- Neither – 17%
- It has helped – my workplace encourages me to eat healthy and exercise with wellness programs – 10%
- It has helped – work keeps me busy, active and away from the fridge – 8%
“Work environment and corporate culture clearly have an impact on employee health objectives,” said Dr. Richard A. Chaifetz, Chairman and CEO of ComPsych. “Increasingly, employers are seeking to influence employees’ at work behavior positively with health and well being programs. Stress management as well as the promotion of exercise and healthy eating while at work have become important components of wellness programs, as organizations seek to improve employee effectiveness while reducing health care costs.”
Despite the best efforts of employers to promote wellness, these results are nothing new. The desk potato trend has been on the rise as workers become more tethered to their desks. Even lunch breaks have disappeared—replaced by hastily eaten meals in front of screens and over keyboards.
At first glance, our work may not seem relevant to how fat we are. There’s no scientific data pointing to any one factor as the cause of obesity. But experts say our sedentary working conditions most likely contribute to our collective bloat.
Despite a multi-billion dollar industry aimed at paring us down, America just keeps getting fatter and fatter. Obesity affects at least 70 million Americans, including more than one-third of all adults, according to the American Obesity Association.
The prevalence of obesity among adults rose 60% nationally since 1991, according to the CDC. It’s a trend that began more than two decades ago and has only grown stronger.
“That is a dramatic increase in a relatively short period of time,” says Donald Hensrud, a Mayo Clinic nutrition specialist. Genetic factors wouldn’t change so rapidly, he says, so the increase in obesity must stem from something in the environment, such as diet or activity levels.
1. Set an alarm for regular intervals so you can get up and move around. There are some exercise apps with workouts that can be done in the office (or even in your office chair—check out the Office Chair Refresher custom workout on the Sworkit app).
2. If you are on the phone, try standing during the call if you can. Standing is ALWAYS better than sitting. Even if you’re working through lunch at your desk, try to step away from the computer and at least stand up while you munch. Your body and your food splattered keyboard will thank you for eating away from the computer. And if you insist on eating at your desk, then give yourself a 20 minute break after you finish your food and go for a quick walk outside.
3. Try an alternative desk configuration. Treadmill desks and standing desks are gaining popularity (although the reviews are mixed regarding treadmill desks), but there are other alternative options as well (like the Level, a skateboard/surfboard type device that pairs with standing desks). You can even try swapping out your chair with a stability ball.
4. Make up reasons to walk around—as long as they aren’t disruptive to others. Instead of sending an e-mail or calling someone, just get up and talk to the person.
5. Drink plenty of water. This is a win-win situation, since it means you get your recommended eight glasses of water every day AND you are forced to get up and go whenever nature calls.