‘The Blue Zones’ are populations that experience longer, healthier and fuller lives. You might have heard of some of these before, as scientists love to study their behaviours to try to understand what contributes to their longevity. The Blue Zones include Okinawa in Japan, Sardinia in Italy, Ikaria in Greece, The Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica and Loma Linda in California, where people are three times more likely to live to 100 than Australians. People living in Blue Zones enjoy much longer lives and lower rates of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and dementia compared to that seen in the Western world – Tim Crowe, Associate Professor in Nutrition at Deakin University And what is common amongst the people of The Blue Zones? They lead naturally non-sedentary lives, often moving every 30 minutes or so. While Australians understand the need for exercise, what we aim to do with the BeUpstanding Toolkit is to help people in sedentary jobs move more throughout the day. It’s these small changes to behaviour that can have a big impact on health and wellbeing!
Sedentary behaviour refers to any waking activity characterised by low energy expenditure and a sitting or reclining posture. Common sedentary behaviours include sitting while watching television, driving a car or working at your computer. In Australian office workplaces, sitting behaviour is so common that over three-quarters of the work day is spent sitting, with much of this sitting time accrued in long, unbroken bouts of 30 minutes or more.Further, workplace sitting is the largest contributor to an office worker’s overall daily sitting time. We at BeUpstanding can see the potential in reducing sitting in Australian workplaces to improve health outcomes, as well as overall wellbeing, for a healthier, happier workforce.
Of course some sitting is ok – we all need to have a rest – but sitting for long periods of time without getting up may be particularly bad for our health. Regularly changing your posture between sitting, standing and moving is the key: achieving this is the primary aim of BeUpstanding. Aim to change your posture every 30 minutes.
When you sit you are spending very little energy and your large postural muscles aren’t working very hard. This means your metabolism starts to slow down which can lead to poor health outcomes in both the short and long term. Too much sitting has been linked to an increased number of musculoskeletal conditions, as well as increased risk of overweight or obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, some cancers and premature death. Time to stand up?
In late 2015 we ran a pilot study to test and refine the BeUpstanding toolkit that you see today. Along the way, we heard some really inspiring stories from people who created their own strategies to BeUpstanding in their workplace — some that were simple, some that were quirky, some that were straight up genius! Here are 3 strategies for a little inspiration. The 3 o’clock Mexican Wave One workplace we partnered with adopted a 3 PM office-wide Mexican wave to get their staff on their feet. It’s something everyone takes part in, and never fails to crack some smiles! The stairs of gratitude Our friends at a busy studio in Melbourne reside on the sixth floor of their office building. They instated a challenge to walk the stairs once a day, and on each floor people gave thanks for something they were grateful for in their life. The shake it off One workplace that dealt with a lot of customer complaints encouraged an office-wide policy to stand up and shake it off after every phone call. Staff reported a lift in their feelings of resilience and overall stress.