Friday Rant: The Increasing Risk of Sedentary Employment

We who are immersed in the procurement sector know all about the importance of assessing and precluding risk factors. We spend most of the day seated in front of our computers and also know that a sedentary lifestyle contributes to cardiovascular disease, obesity, lethargy, and now, according this week's WSJ Health & Wellness section "Subjects who spent 10 or more years in sedentary jobs had twice the risk of colon cancer and a 44% increased risk of rectal cancer, compared with those who never held a sedentary job."

Now if you're thinking you've got that covered by jogging, walking or going to the gym, maybe not. "Australian scientists collected data from 2005 to 2007 on employment history, lifestyle and physical activity from 918 colon-cancer patients and 1,021 controls. Jobs were ranked according to the level of physical activity, from light to very heavy ... [and] Occupations requiring heavy physical activity were associated with a 44% reduced risk of colon cancer compared with light-activity work." The real kicker here is that "The association was independent of recreational physical activity."

So what are we to do? At a past stage in my career, I threw in the towel for a few years and became a full-time carpenter. My reasoning was complicated (life is, right?), but I loved how I felt. I'd spent the prior 20 years or so behind a desk and no amount of weight lifting and running ever felt as good as hard labor. If I wasn't pushing 60 and the housing market hadn't slumped, I might still be at it. Similarly, a little over 100 years ago, most Americans worked in farming. Technology has dramatically changed all that but it doesn't change the fact that we humans evolved and have survived for over 99% of our existence working our butts off -- literally. And yes, I've digressed.

I suspect we procurement types are in a unique position to lead the hedge against how we can combat the accumulating deleterious risk of sedentary employment. Here are few ideas:

- Dump the office desk and chair and install a treadmill or elliptical trainer in front of a telescoping drafting board. We could then step off for taking important calls and fine motor mousing.
- Cubicles would need to be made larger by eliminating conference rooms and then meetings could be scheduled as walking events.
- Everyone would become so fit and healthy that medical insurance plans could be converted to corporate self-insurance, saving a bundle that would pay for the new digs.
- The redundant company gym could also be closed and sold-off saving even more overhead.
- Everyone would have more discretionary cash from saving on office attire and switching to shorts and t-shirts.

And who knows, but productivity would likely increase along with energy levels, anxiety would be dramatically reduced and we could even impose the model upon our suppliers.

Any other ideas? Have a great weekend and stay off your duffs.

- William Busch

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