1221 SW 4th Ave. Suite 210, Portland, OR 97204
By Zach Cross in collaboration with Matt Lim
Last summer, Commissioner Novick launched an initiative to encourage regular, physical activity to counter prolonged sitting throughout the workday. The initiative, which he brought to City Council and declared “War on Chairs,” underscores the documented health impacts of a predominately sedentary lifestyle. Studies have shown that even light physical activity once or twice a day for a short period of time can improve health outcomes. This year, Commissioner Novick’s summer interns carried the “War on Chairs” torch to encourage daily physical activity.
Chairs may not seem very harmful, but they are harming our bodies in ways that we can barely imagine. Sitting and other sedentary in the same position for multiple hour’s increases the chance of chronic health conditions such as obesity, increased blood pressure, high blood sugar or excessive body fat. The more we move, the healthier we become.
Recent studies have shown that something as simple as walking for 30 minutes a day reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease by 31%, death by 32%, coronary disease artery disease by 18%, heart attacks by 35% and risk of stroke by 34%.
During our internship this summer, Matt Lim and I have taken on the planning and implementation of a pilot program within our office to encourage physical activity during the work day. We’re calling it the Summer Wellness Challenge.
The goal of this challenge is to disrupt prolonged sitting at least once per day. However, we needed to design the program to be flexible enough as to not order to not disrupt the productivity of the office. We also incorporated surveys of staff so that we can share experiences with this Summer Wellness Challenge to other City offices.
The plan that Matt and I ultimately developed encourages participation in a positive and enjoyable way by using a baton to be shared amongst staff. Our baton for this pilot project was pretty randomly chosen, and we decided to use a rubber chicken that we nick-named “#FitnessChicken.” Once a staffer completes a personally chosen activity, the baton is passed to a colleague and encourage physical activity.
At the end of each week, Matt and I conducted an anonymous online survey of staff to collect feedback that can be incorporated in the development of future fitness initiatives. Through this campaign Matt and I have concluded that positive encouragement is the key. When encouraged, staff was more likely to participate in the fitness challenge. We also found that a buddy system increases participation.
Overall, Matt and I found the pilot Summer Wellness challenge to be a great learning opportunity and we found that nearly any type of increased daily movement can be beneficial to health outcomes. It doesn’t take too much to encourage increased daily activity either; even a rubber chicken can do the trick. It’s all about getting up, being active, having fun and staying healthy!