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Working in an office? There's a good chance you're unfit.

Read time: 3 mins

Do you work in an office and find yourself sitting for long hours at a desk every day? There’s a good chance you’re unfit, possibly overweight and you could be making yourself ill as a result.

New research by Irish Life Health has found that a shocking 71 per cent of Irish workers struggle to find time to exercise; over half of them – 54 per cent – are overweight; and 34 per cent suffer from high cholesterol because of their sedentary lifestyles. 

Increased workloads, longer working hours and digital technology mean that we’re all hunched over a computer screen for longer than we should be. And many of us sit in a car or on public transport while getting to and from work.

A new job it seems can also make us gain weight. The Irish Life Health survey found that 42 per cent of us put on weight when starting a new job – and for 22 per cent of us, that is more than a stone.

Sitting is the new smoking

The bottom line? All this lack of exercise is seriously detrimental to our health.  In fact, some health experts have compared sitting to smoking.

Research shows that sitting for long periods of time leads not only to aches and pains, but to a higher risk of muscular-skeletal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and even cancer.

And an increasing number of Irish people are reporting serious back problems from sitting too much.

“We’re simply not genetically programmed to remain sitting all day,” says health and fitness expert Professor Niall Moyna from Dublin City University.

“We evolved from hunters gathers, but the Industrial Revolution of the 19th Century and more recently the Digital Revolution have changed the way many of us are working. It’s completely artificial,” he adds.

While the value of standing desks has been recognised in other parts of the world like Scandinavia, they are still not the norm in Ireland. And many employers here fail to recognise the dangers of employees being sedentary.

So, what can you do to limit the damage? 

Step away from the chair

“Get away from your chair whenever you can,” says Professor Moyna. “Something as simple as walking to the water machine or to a printer will improve your fitness level and especially when you are doing this regularly for 10 to 15 minute intervals throughout the day.”

He says employees should not be made to feel guilty about moving about.

“You shouldn’t feel like a social outcast because you leave your desk,” he adds. “In fact, it should be encouraged to move around the office by your employers.”

Sitting at desk

Get moving with Irish Life Health

Download the Irish Life Health - Move Your MET app.

Designed by Irish Life Health, in collaboration with Professor Moyna and Dr Sarah Kelly, also from DCU, this app is part of the Irish Life Health Workplace Fitness Challenge.

A pioneering motivational fitness initiative, the challenge aims to inspire Ireland’s workforce to get moving by making simple, attainable adjustments to their working life.

This can take many forms - from moving about an office during the day, holding walking or stand-up meetings, or simply doing a group exercise activity with your work colleagues at lunchtime or outside of working hours.

Think about it: you spend most of the day with them, five days a week and you know each other well. What better people to exercise with?

Have some fun in the workplace

Not only will you improve your general fitness levels, you will look and feel better and improve your concentration. And the best part? The challenge is a lot of fun!

The Irish Life Health Workplace Fitness Challenge is open to all Irish companies regardless of size, location and facilities. And it costs nothing to take part.

The Move your MET app measures employees (Metabolic Equivalent of Task) score at the beginning of the challenge and aims to improve their MET over the course of six weeks. Visit: www.irishlifehealth.ie/moveyourmet/.

This year’s Workplace Fitness Challenge started on May 22 and will continue until June 30. While registration for it has now closed, it’s not too late to get moving – so go on, stand-up for your health!