Amy Williams, assistant manager of Little Rock Racquet Club, demonstrates the Inchworm Incline Chinup. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/CELIA STOREY)
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 155 million people are employed in the United States. Depending on the month, somewhere between 13% and 19% of them fall into the physically active, blue-collar worker category.
This means that most employed workers (more than 80%) hold jobs that do not require them to be physically active.
Sedentary working populations face specific health challenges based on their environmental conditions, job requirements and behavioral decisions. These Americans (almost 120 million people) work in every sector, ranging from government and finance to health care — and everything in between.
Job stress combined with poor diet and lack of physical activity can spell disaster for the corporate worker, as these factors combine to break down the body and cause chronic health conditions. Among them are heart disease, diabetes, anxiety, depression and obesity.
The good news is that one can take preventive steps that dramatically reduce the risk for developing one of these chronic conditions in the first place, even if that individual works in a sedentary occupation.
First, never sit for more than an hour at a time. Stand up, walk around the office and stretch at least once an hour. This will increase blood flow and cognitive function and will help prevent some of the musculoskeletal tightness that can lead to low back pain.
Second, take little, 30- to 60-second "work breaks" every 15 minutes or so. Stretch your wrists, clinch your fists, rotate your spine and sit up straight. These little work breaks perform a similar function as the hourly walking breaks but are more specific to the muscles used in computer work.
The third key to preventing work-related health problems is acquiring nutritional knowledge. Notice that I did not recommend "healthy eating." That's because most people really don't understand what "healthy" means. Some people think that drinking a glass of chocolate milk or eating an apple means they are "eating healthy." Acquiring a comprehensive understanding of caloric density, food labels and the glycemic index are just a few ways that one can make better nutritional choices leading to healthy energy balance.
Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't recommend a 30- to 40-minute, moderate-intensity workout on most days of the week. Elevate the heart rate, increase respiration and challenge the major muscle groups with cardiovascular and strength exercises.
This week's exercise falls into the strength category and can be a wonderful way to improve posture at the same time. The Inchworm Incline Chinup will challenge the core, arms and upper back with very little equipment or prior knowledge required.
1. Lock a Smith machine bar about 4 feet off the floor. Get underneath the bar and grasp it with an underhand grip. Also, move all the way to the left side of the bar with your hands about shoulder width apart.
2. Your feet should be touching the floor, and you want to lean back so your body is at an incline as you hold onto the bar.
3. Do a chinup while keeping your hips and torso aligned.
4. As you lower back down, move the right hand a few inches to the right on the bar.
5. Do another chinup, and this time, move the left hand a few inches to the right on the bar.
6. Continue alternating chinups and hands as you slowly creep across the bar all the way to the right side.
The thing is, work environments can be conducive to a healthier lifestyle, and many employers have taken steps to help workers achieve that outcome. About 12% of employers with more than 500 employees have on-site fitness centers, and others have wellness resources that workers can employ to improve their personal health.
My advice is to explore those resources and take advantage of them. You'll be glad you did. Have a great week!
Matt Parrott has a doctorate in education (sport studies) and a master's in kinesiology and is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine.
Style on 08/05/2019
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