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Sit less – move more – is it really that serious an issue?

Workplaces leave us exposed to certain conditions / environments for long periods of time over our lifetimes. This accumulative effect of repetition can leave us vulnerable – the same thing, over a long period of time across years and years.

Been born and raised in an ex mining area South East of Wakefield the accumulative effective of my Grandads' work exposure (down the pit) was respiratory; COPD which ultimately took his life. It is an obvious link to make when looking at the mining environment, dust and little protection against the environment in terms of PPE etc. We didn’t have the knowledge we do now.

We are now armed with so much more knowledge than years gone by and our work environments have improved dramatically from health and safety processes, safety equipment in more manual jobs to plush offices with lots of great facilities.

In a service economy we know that a lot of our work consists of sitting down for long periods of time. Married up to an inactive lifestyle outside of work this provides the perfect storm for negative health consequences to settle in.

The average UK Worker according to a survey by AXA in 2017 revealed on average we sit for 9 hours day. That’s the equivalent of flying long haul to Barbados (4208 miles from the UK) – EVERYDAY. Imagine a day in the office is equivalent to a long haul flight 5 days a week when we know all about the danger of sitting down for long periods in flight.

Space can tell us something too and NASA have some great literature on the effects of limited movement without gravity has on the body. Without this magical resistance around us called gravity the body suffers quite substantially. Yet if we don’t move enough on earth we are replicating these negative effects in Space over a longer period of time e.g. muscle loss.

(3) NASA found that maintaining strong muscles is a big enough challenge on Earth. It is much harder to do in space where there is no gravity.  Calf muscles biopsies before flight and after a six months mission on the ISS show that even when crew members did aerobic exercise five hours a week and resistance exercise three to six days per week, muscle volume and peak power both still decrease significantly.  

Working with the strength for life team in Sheffield there is a huge evidence base telling us that maintaining muscle mass through loading up the body with weights (controlled and progressive weight training appropriate to the individual) is a huge asset in your arsenal against illness, recovering from illness and quality of life later in life.

Simply moving acts as a conditioning tool for whole body systems – too many to list. Be rest assured the evidence is irrefutable and those small regular moving habits within your day are key to improving health and fighting against our inactive lifestyles. Walking over to your colleague’s desk instead of using instant messaging etc all help. Lunch time walks and walking meetings are culturally hard to get in to the habit of doing but are so important.

Braun Medical in Sheffield have embedded physical activity into their employee wellbeing programme helping them foster a cultural movement amongst employees to be conscious of moving more. On the business side of things it helps make a dent in absences due to inactive lifestyles but also acts as key indicator of investing in staff and health.

And the benefits of moving more don’t just stop at just physical benefits. ”Sitting down can limit the fresh blood and oxygen going to the brain, meaning it can decrease levels of our ‘feel-good’ hormones, endorphins, and slow your brain function,” explained Iley (University of Chester), “It has an impact on your mental wellbeing, not just your physical health.”(4)

The NHS (2) is also churning out information linked to sitting down too much. The NHS knows that by reducing incidences of conditions directly attributed to physical inactivity (e.g. diabetes) it can prevent an influx of hospital admissions and reduce resource / financial spend.

The difficulty is where does the responsibility land? Many would argue the individual – and to some degree that could be a valid answer. But factors such as built environment, technology, convenience, the way we travel and commute and our external stressors all play a part in our choice to be more active.

Move More (1) is Sheffield’s plan to become the most active City in the UK by 2020 working with partners such as Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, Westfield Health, Sheffield City Council, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, National Centre for Sports and Exercise Medicine and a network of partners.

It works across every sector including the business community, Education, community and acts as a lever to influence the way the City develops around embedding physical activity opportunities in everyday life.

In workplaces initiatives such as the workplace challenge have aimed at injecting fun into moving more by challenging employees to move more via an internet based workplace challenge platform used as an engagement tool to cascade the move more message communications and to find out who is the most active workplace in Sheffield revealed at an awards ceremony,

Locally based initiatives have been developed too including encouraging people to use the stairs over the lift using communications at ‘point of decision’ locations; lift or stairs, to nudge people toward stair use. This has been bolstered by lunchtime briefings for employees on the benefits of physical activity and strength training on reducing and managing (5) Musculoskeletal conditions (a top UK cause of absence)

Other initiatives have seen love to ride (7) and Inmotion (6) - a travel project - work with business specifically on supporting more active travel commutes to help build cycling or walking and public transport through local campaigns such as “little Big changes’ and the love to ride prize based cycle challenge.

Sheffield business can benefit from International expertise around this key public health priority by getting involved in the move more plan, receiving support through myself working in the City, gain access to resources and additional bespoke move more health products, services and resources.  The City wants to move more, we want you to move more and your health wants you to move more. Sheffield a City together in activity.




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