Sitting is the New Smoking: 12 Ideas to Get You Back on Your Feet

June 22, 2017 | 2488 Views

Sitting is the New Smoking: 12 Ideas to Get You Back on Your Feet

Gabe Hosler, FMP

“Sitting is the new smoking.” You may have heard that phrase recently online, in news reports, or maybe at the gym. It was coined by Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic after studying the effects of sedentary lifestyles, and he summed up his research with these words: “Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV, and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death.”

In the world of hospitality, too much sitting is not something that most employees have to worry about because they are typically very active helping, serving, directing, cooking for, and cleaning up after guests. Most of them rarely sit down, and if they were to count up their steps, I’m sure some of them easily reach 10,000 when working a long shift.

But what happens when operations folks get promoted up into training positions? Many of us transitioned from field-based work into corporate jobs as Coordinators, Directors, and Vice Presidents of Training, and our very active days were replaced with 40-hours-plus-per-week of sitting at desks and pouring over emails, spreadsheets, and PowerPoint presentations. And according to studies by Dr. Levine and other researchers, excessive long stretches of sitting can result not only in weight gain, but also increases the chances of developing heart disease, diabetes, and certain forms of cancer.

 So what can we do to lessen these effects? Here are 12 ideas that to help hospitality trainers get back on their feet at the office:

  1. Get comfortable – Nobody is going to be motivated to get out of their chair if they don’t have the right shoes. If you’re wearing something that’s incredibly stylish but not too comfortable, it’s time to re-visit DSW or the Zappo’s site and find a pair that will help encourage you to sit less and stand more.
  1. Stand up while working – If it’s something you can fit in your budget, consider replacing your traditional desk with a stand-up desk, height-adjustable desk, or even better, a treadmill desk. Any of these are great options to get you on your feet. 
  1. Stand up while calling – If you can’t afford a stand-up desk or it’s not feasible in your office, at least consider adding a hands-free headset for your phone so you can stand up while making calls. 
  1. Track your movement – A tracker like a Fitbit can help you to understand exactly how many (or how few) steps you are actually taking throughout the day. We often use the expression “what gets measured, gets done” when talking about operations, and it can be the same when it comes to taking a break from all the sitting we do; knowledge of your activity level can help you change it. One of the features I like most about my Fitbit is that I can set an alert to remind me to get up and walk at least 250 steps each hour. 
  1. Walk-and-talk meetings – Your meetings don’t always have to be confined to the traditional conference room/table/chair setting. If you only have 2-3 participants, consider having a walk-and-talk around your building or down the sidewalk.
  1. Walk where you can – If you’ve got a meeting or appointment a short distance away, give yourself some extra time to walk instead of driving or taking an Uber. Walk to pick up your lunch instead of having it delivered. Walk to a co-worker’s desk to ask a question instead of emailing. If you start thinking about it, I bet you can come up with at least 5-10 instances each day you could be walking somewhere.
  1. Stand up while eating – Since I just mentioned lunch, here’s another perfect opportunity to stand instead of sit. If you have a standing desk or tall table available in your office, or if there’s a tall dining or cocktail table at the restaurant you visit, forego the chair and stand while your downing that meatball hero.
  1. Smaller cups – Instead of bringing an enormous water bottle to work and filling it up once per day, bring a smaller container that you’ll need to get up and refill multiples time per day.
  1. Push your distances – Do anything you can to walk a bit farther than you traditionally have. Park in the back of the lot when you arrive, print at the farthest printer in your office, use the restroom farthest away from your desk (even better if it’s on another floor and you can go upstairs), or visit the second closest Starbucks on your break. You can also make things slightly less convenient; for example, consider moving your garbage can or recycling bin further away from your desk so you have to take more steps to get to them.
  1. Visit the field – As much as your schedule allows, get out of the office and go visit your operations. These trips to your hotels or restaurants will not only provide an opportunity to get you moving around, but also provide the opportunity to connect with staff members, discuss their challenges, and create even better training programs and materials for them.
  1. Clean up – For those like me who used to work as a restaurant employee, what was the last task each night? Clean up your workstation, of course! That should be the same now that you’re working in an office; take 5 minutes before leaving to stand up and arrange your desk, file any loose papers, wipe down your computer and keyboard, take out your trash, etc. It’s the perfect opportunity to get in a few more minutes of activity before the end of the day.
  1. Don’t go it alone – Getting healthier doesn’t have to be a solitary pursuit. Find a buddy in your office to track your steps with, or better yet, start a walking club among your co-workers so you can help one another reach certain goals. The more you talk about it, the more successful you will be.

Our job as trainers is to help others succeed, but first we need to take care of ourselves; nobody's going to benefit it we are too tired, sick, or pained while attempting to teach a class or help during a new store opening. So get on your feet, everyone, and get healthier!

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