MORRIS – Jean Koerner of Coal City knows she has a sedentary job.
A bookkeeper in the Grundy County administration building for 26 years, she has been a bookkeeper for a total of 34 years.
Koerner exercises during her free time. She bicycles around the neighborhood with her daughter and granddaughter, and does calisthenics at home.
But last fall, when an email circulated through the administration building announcing a lunchtime exercise program, Koerner decided to participate.
“It sounded like fun,” she said.
The group, The Walking Warriors, began the program by walking outside. When the winter weather hit, they moved inside to the board room, where they exercised to a DVD walking program.
“The more you exercise, the healthier you are,” Koerner said. “It’s important muscular-wise and cardiovascular-wise. And I just feel better when I exercise.”
Grundy County Director of Nursing Judy Bailey organized the group. When The Walking Warriors are not walking outside, they walk in place and perform side-to-side movements, squats, leg lifts and other exercises.
The DVDs are suitable for every fitness level, Bailey said. As a health professional, Bailey knows the negative effects of being too sedentary. It affects metabolism, she said, and circulation.
She found the actual exercises, while promoting fitness, had an extra bonus.
“It also helped us with our stress levels during the day,” Bailey said.
Stacy McCarthy of Morris also works in the administration center. She began the lunchtime program the same time Koerner did. She also hits the gym before work three mornings a week. She, too, notices additional perks from exercising.
“It makes it easier to chase the kids around,” McCarthy said, “and I like to be a good role model for them, too.”
It’s a fun group, too, she said, and the members enjoy talking with each other during their workouts.
“It gives me more energy for the afternoon,” McCarthy said. “It’s a good mental break. It’s something I look forward to.”
It’s smart strategy on the part of The Walking Warriors.
Family physician Dr. Deirdre Greathouse, with C&R Medical Group at Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox, said the harmful health effects of working a sedentary job are too great even to be overcome by exercising after hours.
“Eight hours is a long time to be sedentary,” she said.
The prolonged inactivity, she said, increases the risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, obesity, varicose veins, leg cramps and back pain. Sitting all day also can accelerate degeneration of the bones in people who have osteoarthritis or osteoporosis.
A 2013 study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity suggests that getting up and moving every 30 minutes might be a good idea.
Greathouse said incorporating an exercise plan into a lunch period is a great idea. Nurses on her floor walk up and down a stairwell for exercise during their lunch breaks. She also recommended parking a good distance from the workplace entrance, leg exercises while sitting at the desk, and getting up frequently to walk around the office building.
A quick walk also is a good way relieve midday fatigue, she added, much better than drinking energy drinks, which can be harmful to one’s health. The American Heart Association has advice on how to incorporate physical activity into sedentary workplaces, at www.heart.org.
KNOW MORE • Sedentary jobs have increased 83 percent since 1950. • Physically active jobs now make up only about 25 percent of the work force. • America’s average work week keeps getting longer. Today, we work 164 more hours per year than we did 20 years ago. • Heart disease is this country’s No. 1 killer. Exercising for as little as 30 minutes each day can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Employees that add physical activity to their sedentary jobs experience: • Increased well-being, self-image and self-esteem. • Improved coping skills with stress or other factors affecting health. • Improved health. • Lower costs for acute health issues. • Lower out-of-pocket costs for health care services (such as reduced premiums, deductibles, and co-payments). • Increased access to health promotion resources and social support. • Improved job satisfaction. • Safer and more supportive work environment. How employers benefit when employees incorporate exercise: • Lower health care and disability costs. • Enhanced employee productivity. • Reduced employee absenteeism. • Decreased rates of illness and injuries. • Enhanced corporate image. • Improved employee morale. • Improved employee recruitment and retention. • Increased organizational commitment and creation of a culture of health. Source: American Heart Association