This summer, I am a research intern in the Wipfli Lab working on the Active Workplace Study. This study is looking at sedentary behavior patterns among call center workers and how a Total Worker Health® approach can be implemented to increase physical activity to promote health and safety. In the past 9 weeks, I have learned a lot about public health and the workplace, but perhaps the most shocking thing I learned is that sitting is dangerous! As an exercise science major, it came as no surprise that people are being encouraged to exercise more and eat healthier, but what I didn’t expect to learn was how sitting is detrimental to the health of seemingly healthy people. In fact, exercising after work is not enough to combat sitting for an 8-hour workday. At first, I was very distraught to learn that I was one of the many of Americans plagued by a desk job and would now be at a higher risk for health issues such as obesity, diabetes, low back pain, and cardiovascular disease.
However I was relieved to learn that there are simple ways to reverse the negative effects of sitting. It is as simple as alternating between sitting and standing, taking a short walk every hour, or using the stairs instead of the elevator to visit coworkers on another floor. Research shows that as few as 5 minutes of walking, pedaling, or standing each hour is enough to counteract vascular decline and increased risk of diabetes from sitting. It is easy to get in the habit of sitting all day, but when you are mindful of taking short, active breaks every hour, you can prevent the negative health effects associated with prolonged sitting.
In only 3 weeks, my time at OHSU will be over, but I am just beginning to explore how sedentary behavior affects aspects of health and well-being, both in my life and in the lives of those around me. I’ve made sure to let my family and friends know just how important it is to be moving at work and how easy it really is to do so. After I graduate from George Fox University this April, I am hoping to go to physical therapy school, and I plan to incorporate the knowledge I have gained about sedentary behavior and exercise at work into my future career.
I want to say a special thanks to Brad, Sara, and Courtney in the Wipfli Lab for teaching me about public health and allowing me to be involved in participant enrollment for the Active Workplace Study. Learn more about the Active Workplace Study.
Submitted by Sydney Reynolds, OccHealthSci Summer Research Intern