THE BLOG
12/15/2014 01:08 pm ET Updated Feb 14, 2015

Sitting Is the New Smoking and a Hazard to Your Career Health

You've heard it before. We spend most of our waking hours at work, and many spend the majority of their time at a desk in front of a computer. Not to mention the hours we commute to work in a car, plane, train, or bus -- sitting. The sedentary lifestyle is a hazard to our health and can also squelch our career advancement.

According to a WebMD feature by Lisa Fields, there is a price to sitting too much:

A growing body of research shows that long periods of physical inactivity raise your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity.

There are easy ways to become more active at work, which will increase your productivity and your heart rate on the job. I'm still a fan of my Fitbit device, which tracks my daily steps and provides me with mobility accountability. This has also given me a new lens through which I consider my career strengths.

Fitness Is a Competitive Advantage

Ashley Tappan is a 16-year business consultant and triathlon athlete who co-founded the "Fit to Lead" program at her company, Insigniam. She blogs about the mounting evidence that fitness is linked to career success and transformational leadership. She asserts that fitness (at all levels) creates a business advantage in the workplace.

Tappan believes that fitness is no longer "nice to have" and only for athletes. Fitness confers an advantage and may increasingly be a requirement for leaders in business. From developing stamina and a strong work ethic to taking on new challenges and pushing yourself beyond your perceived limitations. Fitness translates directly from your wellbeing to your career.

Holistic Career Advancement

You need not be a triathlon athlete to tap your career fitness benefits. Getting into the game is what counts most. Treating your body, since it's the only one you have, with dignity and respect and the movement it requires to stay healthy.

The phrase sitting is the new smoking reinforced my awareness that I'm in control of how I treat my body at work and beyond. As we approach the new year, many will enlist in elaborate weight loss and exercise regimen plans. If that works for you -- go for it. But I urge you to start now by simply getting up and walking around more during your workday.

Tap Your Creative Juices

I've recently become a devotee of walking meetings, and I join an ever-growing contingent dedicated to getting up and out of the office to meet on the move. Feet First, a website that promotes walkable communities, traces the walking meeting back to Ancient Greece and Aristotle's peripatetic teaching-while-walking methodology.

A recent Stanford University study found that a person's creative output increased by an average of 60 percent while walking -- regardless of whether it was indoors or outdoors. So, not only is the walking meeting advantageous to your health -- it can promote new ideas and problem solving as well.

Here are five good reasons to incorporate walking meetings into your workday from Ronnie Citron-Fink of Planet Green:

• Walking and talking side-by-side cuts through hierarchical work distinctions and sets people at ease -- enhancing a positive working spirit.

• Getting out of the office offers more confidentiality and fewer interruptions.

• Different environments inspire new ideas and stimulate creativity.

• Walking burns calories and stimulates oxygen flow around the body. This can help increase brain function and the ability to solve problems faster.

• Connecting with nature -- getting fresh air and light -- improves overall well being.

As a self-proclaimed high heel lover and wearer, I keep an extra pair of sneakers in my office so I am always ready for a walking meeting. Staying active at work does not have to cramp my career style or my wardrobe.

Death by Meetings

I recently heard Chip Conley, renowned speaker, author, thought leader, and head of global hospitality for Airbnb, talk about the importance of the setting an ambiance for meetings, workshops and company retreats. The stale conference room with fluorescent lighting can stagnate creativity, energy, and outcomes. Consider getting out of the office and going to a new location off site to energize your team and get them moving. You need not spend a fortune. Get creative, consider swaps with local business owners and invest in the creativity of your employees by providing a meeting environment that empowers them to shine. If you are really clever, you will choose a location they can walk to!

My mantra -- Enjoy Your Career. Love Your Life! -- rings true now more than ever. Get up and get moving during your career day and beyond. Life is short enough and you deserve to honor your body at work and beyond. One step at a time, you can move towards a more active lifestyle and a more productive career. Get moving!

Caroline Dowd-Higgins authored the book "This Is Not the Career I Ordered" now in the second edition, and maintains the career reinvention blog of the same name. She is Director of Professional Enrichment at the Indiana University Alumni Association and contributes to AOL Jobs, CNN Money, the British online magazine - The Rouse and More Magazine online. She is working on a TV series about career & life empowerment for women and hosts the international podcast series Your Working Life - check it out on iTunes. Follow her on Facebook,LinkedIn, and Twitter.