Authored by: Dr. Michael Dedekian, MD and Let’s Go! Advisor
“If exercise was a pill, I’d give it to everyone!”
I have fond memories of an enthusiastic professor in medical school who taught us about the power of prevention. He would talk about patients he saw in the emergency room or clinic with heart trouble or diabetes. So much of the day, he said, was spent trying to cure a disease that could have been prevented in the first place, often by being more physically active.
Everyone knows exercise is good for you. “Good” is probably not a strong enough word. Exercise is a magic potion known to improve, and sometimes cure, some of the most common diseases on the planet.
However, here’s something most of us probably don’t know: moving around at work, even if you don’t exercise, is also a powerful medicine. Evidence from health studies has been building in recent years showing that sitting for more than an hour or two at a time is not good for us, increasing our risk for heart disease and other health problems. Amazingly, this seems to be true even for those of us who exercise regularly. This is called an “independent risk factor” for disease, meaning that even if you eat right and exercise, sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day is still a strike against you.
Living in a healthy way is an enormous challenge. Time is tight, we’re all busy and unhealthy food is cheap and easily available. However, there’s a ray of hope that even the little things we do in our day can tip the scales and set us on a healthier path. Let’s Go!, a program of The Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at Maine Medical Center, has recognized this and encourages employees to move more throughout the day. The 1 in their popular 5-2-1-0 message reminds children to get 1 hour or more of physical activity every day something that’s not always attainable for working parents.
Meetings lasting more than an hour should include 3 minute breaks to stretch. It is becoming more and more acceptable to stand and move during a meeting. Even better, sometimes our schedules include “walking meetings” which have a knack for keeping us focused and efficient.
Moving at work doesn’t take much: stand up, stretch your arms up and out to the sides as far as you can and take a few deep breaths. Encourage coworkers to join in and see how the room’s energy changes. Take the stairs, go for a short walk at lunch or get up and go talk to your coworkers instead of sending an email. You’ll feel better, be healthier and probably get more work done as a result.
My medical school professor was right, moving is medicine. I prescribe that pill for everyone! To purchase posters for your office visit our online store here.