New York workers are taking a stand against sitting.
Prolonged sedentary behavior heightens the risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease and insulin resistance leading to diabetes, so much so that a recent report in American Heart Association journal Circulation declared that “it is appropriate to promote the advisory, ‘Sit less, move more.’”
“Sitting is toxic to our bodies,” said Mary Jane Detroyer, a Manhattan-based exercise physiologist, dietitian and personal trainer, noting that it can result in deconditioned muscles that leave us less toned and strong, and various muscle and skeletal disorders.
A 2014 meta-analysis published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute also concluded that high levels of sedentary behavior increased the risk of colon cancer, lung cancer and endometrial cancer.
Yet, more of us than ever are glued to our chairs, as the digital revolution has converted once-active jobs into stationary gigs and desk-bound jobs are on the rise. According to the Census Bureau, for instance, the number of IT workers — about 4.6 million nationally — has increased tenfold since 1970. Detroyer has also observed that her clients struggle to get moving because of a work culture in which “employers do not want [workers] to leave their desks.”
But some NYC workers are fighting back, optimizing their schedules to get in extra exercise and hacking their work stations to expend more calories while in front of the screen.
Lisa Chau, a public relations and marketing manager from the Financial District, gets off at earlier subway stops during her commute to cram in more cardio, catches up with colleagues on walks she takes at lunch, and strolls to networking events in order to squeeze extra activity into her day.
She also swapped her swivel chair for a stability ball, courtesy of her employer, Watertree Health, which not only burns more calories but has improved her posture, she said.
A bike is the secret weapon of Toby Leah Bochan, who rides from her Park Slope home to her job as director of the Creative Newsroom at Storyful in midtown two days a week, eight miles each way. She’ll bike to meetings if possible, too, and she catches up on emails on the elliptical at her corporate gym in lieu of lunch.
The exercise benefits not just her physical fitness but her sense of “overall well-being,” Bochan said.
Enterprising companies are also cultivating corporate cultures that emphasize activity, from offering exercise options in the workplace to providing exercise stipends.
The startup Greatist, a health-oriented website headquartered in Hudson Square, offers its 40 full-time employees weekly yoga classes, group fitness outings, standing desks, an $80 a month “fitness stipend” to use as they wish and very flexible schedules.
“We have no set hours: People can come and go as they please,” said Greatist CEO Derek Flanzraich, so employees can integrate their fitness needs into their schedules. “There is a really overwhelming scientific consensus, and, increasingly, an intriguing and potentially convincing corporate consensus, that providing a more flexible work environment produces better work.”
These policies “absolutely” improve Greatist’s bottom line and allow both employees and the company to thrive, he said.
“We’ve never had a single person take advantage [of this policy] or not deliver on work they’ve promised,” Flanzraich said.
At the midtown-based KIND, the healthy snack bar company contributes to employee gym memberships, yoga sessions are hosted in the office every other week, walking meetings around Bryant Park are typical, and employees who want table-top standing desk inserts need only request them. More than a dozen people use them now, according to spokeswoman Jenny Hogrefe.
While the walk-and-talks aren’t suitable for PowerPoint presentations, getting the blood flowing really helps “brainstorming and creative discussions,” Hogrefe said.
For Chau, these actions just make business sense.
“It really behooves companies to support [options that increase physical activity because] it lowers health-care costs,” she said.