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Wellness and work environments: when gyms and offices collide

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) has been much in the news lately and with an aging and increasingly obese population, it’s hardly surprising to learn that risks go well beyond air travel. Sedentary workers can also be at great risk – particularly those workers who spend much of the day at the computer. While DVT can strike at any age, some people have higher risk factors than others.
Many office workers are fighting back against the sedentary lifestyle and some workplaces are starting to look more like gyms than cubicle farms. Many workers are trading in their office chairs for exercise balls and many employers – including Google and BMW – are accommodating them. Sitting on an exercise ball takes a bit of getting used to requiring better balance, but proponents find them energizing and tout the benefits of “active sitting.” Ergonomists and physicians suggest they are better for shorter periods of time rather than prolonged use, and are quick to point out that they are not an ergonomic solution to mitigate musculoskeletal disorders. There are several variations, some that offer partial back support.
Many workers find the prospect of a sedentary life less than satisfying, looking for alternatives to traditional seating arrangements. Thomas Jefferson, Ernest Hemingway, Winston Churchill, and Donald Rumsfeld are a few of the notable proponents of standing desks. Recently, some people have been taking this concept a step further with the treadmill desk or the so-called “treadputer”. Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic is a champion of the “Walking While Working” concept, seeing this as as a potential antidote for the obesity epidemic.
Maybe your workplace isn’t ready for a complete transformation yet, but there may be some small adaptations that could energize your work force and keep them moving. Exercise balls might be a great alternative in meeting rooms to keep meetings short and dynamic. A few standing stations interspersed here and there might offer people an opportunity to get up and move while staying focused on a project. Whatever the seating or standing arrangement, the computer work station should be optimized for safety. OSHA offers an illustrated Computer workstation e-tool that offers guidelines and a checklist to ensure best ergonomic practices.

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