How to work wellness into the workplace

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Lois A. Bowers
Lois A. Bowers

Weather in my area of the country was ideal yesterday, as far as I'm concerned. Afternoon temperatures were in the low 70s, the humidity was low, and the sky was a beautiful shade of blue and was filled with puffy, white clouds.

It was the perfect day for a walk, as the accompanying photo suggests.

A recent study suggests other good times for walks, too. And they don't depend on the weather.

Researchers at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine found that changing just one seated meeting every week at work into a walking meeting could improve the health of employees who spend most of their workdays in chairs. That's because each walking meeting helped workers inch closer to the American Heart Association's recommendation of 150 minutes per week, or about 30 minutes each weekday, of moderate-intensity physical activity for adults.

The researchers published their findings in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention journal Preventing Chronic Disease.

“Physical activity interventions, such as the walking meeting protocol, that encourage walking and raise levels of physical activity in the workplace are needed to counter the negative health effects of sedentary behavior,” said Alberto J. Caban-Martinez, D.O., Ph.D., M.P.H., an assistant professor of public health sciences and the study's principal investigator.

Participants in the study wore accelerometers to measure their physical activity levels during the workday over three weeks. They also followed a “walking meeting protocol” that provided guidance on how to lead meetings and take notes while walking.

The average combined moderate/vigorous physical activity reported by participants increased from 107 minutes in the first week to 114 minutes in the second week and to 117 minutes in the third week of the study.

Previous studies have shown that moderately exercising for as few as 15 minutes a day can add up to three years of life expectancy to a person.

Participants in this study found it “feasible and acceptable” to convert a traditional seated meeting into a walking meeting, according to the researchers. So when circumstances allow, consider helping desk-bound employees get some exercise while conducting business.

Lois A. Bowers is senior editor of McKnight's Senior Living. Follow her on Twitter at @Lois_Bowers.

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