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Importance of Physical Activity for Office Workers

Importance of Physical Activity for Office Workers

Millions of people around the world are engaged in office work which is connected with all-day sitting and paperwork as well as little or no physical activity during a day.  Sedentary behavior is not strictly limited to office hours but is later continued during non-working hours, thus, office workers tend to spend much their time sedentary. In such a way, office work presents many hazards, which are commonly underestimated and thus, office workers are at high risk of the development of different office diseases. These diseases are not only related to obesity and joint problems, but also a wide variety of other health conditions, which are highly related to a sedentary lifestyle. Engagement in different physical activities at home after work improves health and promotes productivity and performance as well as the presenteeism of office workers. Thus, physical activity is highly important for office workers especially at home during non-working hours as it positively impacts their physical and psychological well-being and promotes productivity and boosts performance. 

Importance of Exercising at Home

Office workers who spend much time sedentary should exercise at home to compensate for the sedentary time spent at work. Despite the long time spent sedentary during working hours, employees tend to stay motionless during the non-working time at home. Regular exercises do not only improve physical health but also positively influence mental one. After-work physical activity helps to reduce stress, enhances memory and creativity, prolongs mental stamina and improves sleep. Office employees are rarely engaged in at least light physical activity during working hours, thus, they should compensate this time at home. Thus, exercising at home is important to reduce the negative consequences of prolonged sedentary behavior during working hours.

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Sedentary Behaviors among Office Workers

The need for after-work exercises at home is stipulated by the significant amount of time office workers spend sedentary, with no or few transitions to at least walking, both during working ad non-working hours. Researchers S. A. Clemes, S. E. O’Connel, C. L. Edwardson (2014) indicate that adults spend much time sitting mainly for three reasons: at the workplace, during leisure and for transport (p. 298). The number of adults especially in developed countries is involved in office work and spends much time being sedentary and spends little or no time engaged in physical activity, but the main problem is the continuance of sedentary behavior at home during non-working hours.  Researchers M. A Huysmans, D. Srinivasan, S.E. Mathiassen conducted a study to determine the time spend sedentary by office employees of the regional county health care administration in Sweden (2019, p. 584). 24 employees took part in the study, and on average they spent 68,2% of their work time sitting, while some of them spent more than 75% of their work time sitting, with only a few transitions to walking and/or standing. In 2014, researchers Clemes, OʼConnell, and Edwardson conducted another study in the UK, in which 210 full-time office workers participated. The study proved that office workers spent sedentary on average 68% of their workdays, both during working and non-working hours, and 60% of their nonworking days (Clemes, OʼConnell, Edwardson, 2014). It is necessary to underline that office workers spent much time (around 55%) sedentary during nonworking hours during workdays, and this includes time commuting as well as leisure time. In such a way, office employees spend much time sedentary not only during working hours but also during their leisure time at home, which enhances the consequences of sedentary behavior.

Impact of Sedentary Behavior

To understand the importance of after-work exercises it is important to understand that prolonged sedentary behavior harms human health and well-being. Firstly, the effects of all-day sitting are observed in lower back pain, neck-shoulder pain as well as other musculoskeletal pains. Herewith, people spending too much time in front of screens experience problems related to carpal tunnel syndrome and computer vision syndrome. Besides, lack of physical activity can lead to muscle degeneration due to the inactivity of locomotor muscles as well as poor grip strength as well as to the development of osteoporosis. Secondly, prolonged sitting leads to numerous cardiovascular problems, in particular, increased risks of cardiovascular disease, deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, etc. Thirdly, sedentary behavior and lack of moving lead to multiple problems with metabolism, and thus, increased risk of having metabolic syndrome, weight gain (in particular, heart fat, liver fat, visceral fat) and obesity. Overall, the epidemiological study which covered more than 200 000 participants revealed that prolonged sitting is a risk factor for all-cause mortality as well as is a cause of 7% of premature deaths (Huysmans, Srinivasan, Mathiassen, 2019, p. 584). In such a way, sedentary behaviors and lack of physical activities harm the overall health of a person.

Sedentary Behavior Association with Productivity and Performance

Sedentary behavior does not only harms physical health but also hurts cognition and thus, employees’ productivity. Lack of physical activity has a negative impact on employees’ performance and productivity, as well as serves as the basis for burnout and early retirement.  Researchers Ishii, Shibata, Oka conducted a large cross-sectional study among Japanese adults, which showed, that office employees in Japan tend to spend around 70% of their working time sedentary (2018). Moreover, the mentioned study proved that office employees aged 20 to 39 years “with higher levels of sedentary behavior at work are significantly more likely to have low productivity”, while office workers at the age of 40-59 showed lower work engagement in terms of vigor, dedication, and absorption (Ishii, Shabata, Oka, 2018). Thus, prolonged sedentary behavior during working hours and its further continuing during non-working negatively affect not only physical and emotional well-being but also the overall performance and productivity of office workers.

Physical Activity’s Role in Reduction Consequences of Sedentary Behavior

Prolonged sedentary behaviors harm employees’ performance, productivity and overall health, thus, physical activity is a possible intervention to reduce time spent sedentary. The reduction of physical inactivity is largely related to the reduction of the sedentary time spent at work, home and during leisure. Herewith, light and vigor physical activities may partially compensate sedentary time during a day. Despite the fact, that some organizations try to introduce breaks for their employees, not all the office workers have the possibility to spend even a few minutes exercising. Therefore, there is a pressing need to spend as much time as possible exercising during non-working hours, to reduce the negative impacts of a sedentary lifestyle.

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Physical Activity Impact on Productivity and Performance

Physical activity is very important for office workers as it has numerous positive effects on a person’s body and mind, and thus, positively affects an employee’s performance and productivity. A group of researchers from Malaysia conducted qualitative descriptive research-focused “on the importance of physical fitness and its effect on employee health, performance and productivity in organizations” (Etemadi, Shameli, Hassan, Zakaria, Khairudin and Hara, 2016, p. 1104). In the course of the study, the researchers analyzed about sixty works published from 1969 to 2015 (more than 40 published after 2000) and found that fitness programs, in particular, fitness activities, have a positive effect on work performance and productivity, while cardiorespiratory fitness and physical activity are highly associated with presenteeism, while workers engaged in different aerobics training programs (in particular, walking, running, swimming, etc.) showed higher productivity and job satisfaction (Etemadi, et. al., 2016, p. 1106).  In general, the study proved that physical activity has a significant positive impact on performance and productivity, and herewith, reduces absenteeism, employees’ turn over and stress.

The Necessity of Physical Activity for Office Workers

The importance and necessity of physical activity, especially for office workers, should not be underestimated. Engagement in moderate physical activity for at least an hour twice a week positively impacts the overall well-being of a person and improves performance and productivity. Physical activity during non-working hours is a good chance for a mind to distract from stress and improve brain functioning. Besides, physical activity improves body functioning and heart efficiency, and thus, reduces the influence of sedentary behavior on the body and thus, prevents possible complications. The study conducted in Denmark proved that physical activity led to the reduction of musculoskeletal and cardio-metabolic disorders among office workers as well as an overall decrease in health risk indicators and overall health improvement (Sjøgaard, Christensen, Justesen, Murray, Dalager, Fredslund, Søgaard, 2016). Thus, engagement in different physical activities is extremely important for office workers who spend most of their time sedentary, as it can reduce and partially compensate the time spent sitting.

Conclusion

Physical activity is very important for people, especially office workers, who spend a significant amount of their time sedentary both during working and nonworking hours.  Engagement in different physical activities at home positively impacts the physical and psychological well-being and promotes productivity and boosts the performance of office employees and thus, reduces the impact of sedentary behavior during the day. While sedentary behavior is associated with obesity, weight gain, and other health conditions, the regular physical activity allows to keep body fit, reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases and obesity. Herewith, physical activity helps to reduce stress, positively influence creativity, productivity, and performance of employees. Therefore, physical activity remains extremely important for office workers, especially during non-working hours at home.