Do you work sitting on your butt all day? Yeah, me too - and we're not alone.

Work no longer provides the opportunity for physical activity that it once did for many Americans. A century ago in the United States, there were more than 11 million farmers; now there are about 851,000.

In 1900, 80% of the workforce worked in jobs demanding physical labor, and 20% in cerebral jobs; estimates show that by 2020, the opposite will be true: 80% of the jobs will be cerebral, and 20% manual. That's a whole lot of us sitting on our butts.

That's why I jumped at the chance to get out of the office and into a "corporate athletic training" last spring. Conducted by the Human Performance Institute and Wellness & Prevention Inc., the objective of the day-long training was educating participants on the health effects of increasingly sedentary work and an expanding workweek that allows precious few hours for leisure-time physical activity.

According to research by Wellness Councils of America, the average U.S. employee now works the equivalent of one extra month per year, compared to workers in 1970. As our worktime has expanded, so have our waistlines.

The solution, according to the program, is to integrate small bursts of activity into a routine day and to eat healthier. So, during the training, our group of about 25 professionals took frequent breaks to stretch or simply stand up. When it came time to eat, there were numerous healthy snacks around: nuts, fruit and granola bars without high fructose corn syrup. The point was to treat our bodies like vehicles for success.

 

Psychological wellness important too

But beyond physical wellness, the training also embraced the importance of character, integrity and overall morals - psychological wellness, so to speak.

I remember clearly the first time my rose-colored view of the professional world was clouded. It was my sophomore year of college; several baseball players had been arrested for underage drinking the night before. An editor was friends with them; she asked me to omit their names from our weekly "crime blotter." I was extremely torn and, luckily, the editor came back to me and said not to do it. But who knows if I would have had it been a highly paid, high-profile job.

Our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual selves all are connected, the session's leaders said, fitting together like a pyramid with physical well-being at the base and spiritual well-being at the top.

That made sense to me and was a light-bulb moment regarding why employers make the investments they do in wellness programs.

I came away from the session feeling jazzed, and I've even kept my exercise band at my desk for breaks every two hours. For the sake of your organization, it may be something worth looking into.

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