How to Motion-vate Your Team to Better Health

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Encouraging your employees to get movin’ can lead to a healthier corporate culture

“Sitting is the new cancer,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook at a recent Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference. Though his dramatic observation may have been made to boost enthusiasm for the new Apple Watch – which vibrates to remind wearers to get moving – he’s not far off the mark.

“Many of us complete our morning workout, feel great about ourselves, and then are sedentary the rest of the day,” says Lisa Oldson, MD, medical director of obesity medicine at Insight Behavioral Health Centers in Chicago. “But medical data show we need to get a move on! Sitting all day is slowly killing us. It can lead to weight issues and potential obesity. To me, obesity is the new cancer, and we should do what we can to prevent it; we’ll all be better off.”

Getting “Behind” in Your Work?

Question: Where do people spend the most time poised on their posteriors? Answer: At work and during the commute to and from the office. Dr. Oldson is all for “wearable technology” if that’s what you need to get moving, but there are many, simple, and inexpensive recommendations for companies to motivate employees to get off their duffs.

The trick is to move the idea of getting moving—to insert little jump-starts of motion throughout our day whenever and wherever we can – to the front of our minds. Here are a few of Dr. Oldson’s top tips.

Motion-vate your Employees
  • Standing room only. Choose a weekly meeting and make it a standing meeting. Maybe it’s your departmental gathering or a one-on-one with a supervisor. Instead of sitting, stand… or even better… walk!
  • End with a bang! If it has to be a sitting meeting (and does it? Really?), end the meeting five minutes early for a mandatory brisk walk through the halls or up a flight of stairs. It’s only odd until it becomes part of the corporate culture… and it will!
  • Break it up. Remember “safety breaks” from childhood swimming? At 10 minutes before the hour, establish “butt breaks” whereby everyone in the office walks, moves, stretches, takes the stairs for 10 minutes.
  • Don’t eat where you work. Encourage employees NOT to eat “al desko.” Not only should mealtime be a social experience, getting up or getting out is better exercise.
  • Equip it! Consider purchasing an office treadmill for breaks or standing desks for the office.
Move Yourself!
  • Hop on the bus, Gus. People who take public transportation to work tend to be more active. Why? Because they have to get to the train or bus, usually by foot or bike. Many cities now have bike share programs to make cycling easier.
  • Climb the corporate ladder. Well, the stairs, anyway. Pretend the elevator and escalator are broken. Always. Revisit those stairs for a five-minute, mid-afternoon blood-flow surge. Even better than caffeine for a pick-me-up.
  • Dine, then stride. Use 15-30 minutes of your lunch hour to eat, the rest to walk. Have in mind several indoor or outdoor walks you can take so you can hit-the-ground walking, and variety so you don’t get bored.
  • Talk it… up! Stand while you are on the phone. Walk around if you can. Even if you don’t have a private office, sneak in a few slow lunges, squats, or pliés while on the phone. You may look a little silly but may inspire others to do the same!
  • Make it personal. Instead of emailing your colleague two cubes away, if it’s not something that requires written documentation, mosey on over.

Dr. Lisa Oldson is one of a small number of board certified obesity medicine specialists in the Chicago area. She currently is the medical director of obesity medicine at Insight Behavioral Health Centers in Chicago –

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