The Workplace Triathlon

The Workplace Athlete

I have always admired triathletes. They are some of the most-fit people on the planet. It is so popular that there are varying lengths of courses to fit almost any fitness level. For those of you unfamiliar with the sport of triathlon to includes some distance of swimming, biking and running.The sprint is the shortest typically with swims up to 1000M, biking up to 18 miles and a run up to 4 miles. The longest is the ultra with swim distances up to and over 3.2 miles, over 62 miles of biking and over 18 miles of running all in one event. Let’s take a moment to breakdown these events (stay with me).

 

Let’s Get Started
First we have the swim. This is typically the shortest distance event. Talking to many triathletes over the years I have found this is the event that most dread. It takes some amount of skill to swim and it requires a lot of effort from the whole body. Traditionally the events are held in the open water which adds another degree of difficulty. Sometimes the water is cold and you need a wetsuit. Goggles are a must and fins are prohibited.

Next up is the bike. This is typically the longest mileage portion of the event, but most people enjoy this part the most.  You’re on a mechanical object with wheels and you can coast some on the downhills to get a break, but the uphill portions can be difficult at times.

Running is the last portion of the triathlon. You’re already wore out at this point, but you have to do it. It is slow and tiresome, but energizing when you pass the people that haven’t trained as hard as you.

 

What does all of this have to do with sitting at a desk at work? Actually, absolutely nothing! I am setting the stage for a new sport, “the workplace triathlon”. One you can, and should, complete every day. You don’t have to train for it and it will not wear you out when your finished. What I am proposing is the sit, stand, walk triathlon for corporate athletes. Let’s break it down.
SIT. Most Americans sit for the majority of the day while at work. We all know the health benefits for sitting long periods of time throughout the day…wait, there are no benefits. It destroys every fiber of your body and then some. It is detrimental not only to your musculoskeletal system, but also to your cardiovascular system. So, like triathlon, we should make this our shortest timed event. Do this as little as possible throughout the day. We also need to consider our after work behavior. In a survey conducted by Ergotron in 2013, they reported that people sit between 1-2 hours to do other activities at home after work. They report people sit on average 13 hours a day, add in your sleep time and you have personalized your sedentary activity hours.

STAND. Just like the bike, this should be the event that you do the most throughout the day. There are several benefits to your musculoskeletal and cardiovascular systems when you stand vs. sitting for the majority of the day. In fact, a study from the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (JOEM) by Stanford University showed that workers using sit-stand work stations were 78% more likely to report pain free work days, had less discomfort after 15 days and had increased concentration.

The benefits don’t stop with positive health outcomes, you’re brain gets a boost too. Productivity is shown to increase when standing while performing a task (I am standing as I type this). A study published in the journal IIE Transactions on Occupational Ergonomics and Human Factors showed that after one month workers that stood in a call center had 23% more successful calls than seated workers. This benefit increased with time too. At six months those same employees that were in the standing group reported 53% more successful calls. The study also included position monitors and measured time standing and time seated. The standing group sat an average of 1.6 hours less than the seated group. This appears to be fairly minimal time for a big payoff.

WALK. I could write several pages discussing the benefits of walking. The fidget spinner of two years ago was the step counter. People were counting steps and doing their best to reach the magical 10,000 number. We need to continue that practice. I think everyone has heard this before, but it doesn’t hurt to mention the benefits again. Walking is a safe, easy and cheap way to maintain health. Walking has positive benefits for managing heart disease, blood pressure, metabolic disorders (diabetes), and weight. It also helps to strengthen bones, and gets the blood flowing in the legs (sitting can contribute to blood clots). It can also have benefits for posture, balance and coordination as well as having an overall positive impact on mood. Enough? Lets put it all together.

 

“The workplace triathlon”

Sit: Do this the least amount of time during the day.

Stand: Increase the number of hours you stand at your work station to complete tasks.

Walk: Walk on breaks. Modify your lunch time so you can devote time to walking. Invite your friends and create challenges for each other.

The majority of Americans are corporate athletes. If possible, we need to exhaust every option to change how we perform that sport to have positive impacts on the health of the workforce. Workers get a chance to live healthier, disease free lifestyles and employers gain more productive pain-free employees. In the end, everyone finishes a winner.

Happy to help.

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