Question from a pro in the CPEP® posture specialist program:
“How do I leverage the health fair I did at a top-tier corporation to a bigger relationship with the company…?”
The corporate employees were engaged with the posture analysis pictures she took, and now she wants to give the HR manager ammunition to talk to his boss. She also wanted to know…
“Is there a research documented connection between posture, health and productivity?”
Short answer for everyone: YES.
Long answer for you: Yes, but a lot more research needs to be done.
Here’s what the experts agree on so far:
An international group of experts created recommendations to guide employers on best sitting versus standing activity levels at work. Published in the prestigious British Journal of Sports Medicine, “The sedentary office: an expert statement on the growing case for change towards better health and productivity” ranked the quality of current literature with the American College of Sports Medicine system of 4 behavioral groups.
They likened the 4 levels of activity to the gears of a car, “where R = “reverse”, 1 and 2 = light activities within daily living, 3 and 4 are moderate to vigorous activities either in daily life or as part of leisure-time pursuits, exercise and sport” (adapting a model connecting activity and heart disease from the British Heart Foundation)
The flaw in many health promotion programs they identified was attempting to go from “R to 3rd gear, missing targeted interventions in 1st and 2nd gear and thus resulting in behavioural “stalling” (relapse), as would occur in a car if one attempted to go from Reverse into 3rd or 4th gear.” Their consensus was to design work to avoid continuous sedentary behaviour, thereby “engaging people in activity at gears 1 and 2”.
For desk based workers, the recommendations are for progressive change in a direction, “towards accumulating 2 h/day of standing and light activity (light walking) during working hours, eventually progressing to a total accumulation of 4 h/day (prorated to part-time hours)”. They concluded advising “seated-based work should be regularly broken up with standing-based work, the use of sit-stand desks, or the taking of short active standing breaks.”
Targeting progressive change in a direction with respect to sitting vs standing activity makes their recommendations for professionals who address posture in the workplace, because it opens the door to answering the question of “What are you doing when you aren’t sitting or standing”.
Micro-breaks make sense, but especially for employers focused on the bottom line and productivity, offering classes for structured exercise breaks (i.e. StrongPosture® breaks) is one opening to a greater relationship with local corporations.
An effective framework for professionals to address posture in the workplace is using the ACE model (see PostureMonth.org for more info on ACE framework):
- Build Awareness (take posture pictures)
- Train Control (teach StrongPosture® exercise)
- Design an intelligent posture Environment (optimize workstations)
For an intelligent posture environment, standing desks are great, but the core recommendations noted “prolonged static standing postures be avoided; movement does need to be checked and corrected on a regular basis especially in the presence of any musculoskeletal sensation”, and “seated-based work should be regularly broken up with standing-based work and vice versa, and thus, sit-stand adjustable desk stations are highly recommended”.
Also, when those not accustomed to standing may experience “musculoskeletal sensations and some fatigue as part of the positive adaptive process”, and if the pain persists after taking a break “then seeking appropriate medical advice is recommended”.
So consider desks that go up and down during the day, and working that into your classes. Plant the seed to return next year for posture picture follow-up reports.
Planning a corporate health screening? We can help with portable grids, a corporate health lecture that’s ready for you to teach, and a posture screening book with forms to walk you through the process! Checkout this and more on PostureZone.com.
 Townsend N, Bhatnagar P, Wickramasinghe K, et al. Physical activity statistics 2012. London: British Heart Foundation, 2012.
 Buckley, J. P., Hedge, A., Yates, T., Copeland, R. J., Loosemore, M., Hamer, M., . . . Dunstan, D. W. (2015). The sedentary office: A growing case for change towards better health and productivity. Expert statement commissioned by public health england and the active working community interest company. British Journal of Sports Medicine. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2015-09461