The impact of virtual meetings on your health

One of the identifying elements of the pandemic is the conduct of work directly from home and virtual meetings through online platforms, a mode that many companies still embrace.
Virtual meeting platforms has undoubtedly brought many benefits, such as facilitating conversations and allowing companies to maintain operations, but also less positive consequences, such as reducing the amount of time spent on physical activity.
Numerous studies have shown that keeping active on a daily basis is crucial to decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease. For this reason, it's important to find the right balance between time dedicated to work through the use of virtual platforms and time dedicated to physical activity.

To succeed in this goal, you can follow some tips to maintain an active lifestyle despite virtual meetings, such as:

  • reducing the number of virtual meetings to decrease non-verbal overload
  • always keeping 10-15 minutes between them and use this time to do some exercise
  • turning off the webcam and doing walking and stretching in the room every 25-30 minutes during a meeting.

Alicia T. Bryan, Ph.D., FACSM - Raymond Jones, Ph.D.

As communities begin to reopen, companies are identifying the elements of the pandemic culture that have proven beneficial and worth implementing in a more permanent capacity. Among the items identified is the retention of a virtual component for meetings and events and continued work-from-home options. Maintaining virtual offerings (e.g., video conferencing, web conferencing, online meetings, webcasts, web meetings, webinars) has benefits. However, at what costs are these benefits to an individual's health?

Corporations have utilized virtual meeting platforms as a vehicle for facilitating conversations for a long time. The recent surge in utilizing meeting platforms among the general population has allowed businesses of various sizes to maintain operations, students to remain educated, and family and friends to retain connectivity during social distancing and isolation periods. While the growing popularity of the virtual platforms was beneficial, individuals should consider the established consequences of excessive screen time and long periods of sitting on physical and mental health, especially as we transition into a post-pandemic lifestyle.

The Health Cost of Being Virtual

The flexibility of being virtual has increased sedentary activity, screen time and, ultimately, decreased the amount of time spent engaged in physical activity. But the latter is crucial, as it reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and several cancers.

Before the pandemic, researchers estimate that the average adult spent more than eight hours each day sitting. NordVPN, a virtual private network service provider, estimates the pandemic included up to three additional hours of sedentary time to an individual's workday. Researchers have observed significant global increases in sitting time. Physical inactivity has an estimated cost of 53.8 billion international dollars worldwide. Individuals that were active pre-covid seemed to be impacted the most by the abrupt societal changes. Participants reported higher adverse mental health with the experience of a significant reduction in physical activity and simultaneous increases in screen time.

The impact of the increase in virtual meetings on physical activity and health has yet to be determined. However, we know that the more active individuals are, the less they are at risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. In addition, it is well-established that physical activity preserves mental health. Suppose your company is deciding to retain virtual meetings post-covid. In that case, chances are you will need to be more intentional in limiting screen time and maintaining and enhancing physical activity participation.

Protect your Mental Health

Research published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health observed an average 32% decrease in physical activity levels among the self-disclosed, previously active (e.g., meeting U.S. physical activity guidelines). An observed increase in screen time and reduced physical activity levels for these participants resulted in a significant decline in mental health. When participants no longer met the minimal U.S. guidelines for physical activity, they reported higher levels of depression, loneliness, and stress. The rapidly increased use of virtual platforms among hundreds of million individuals globally resulted in a condition coined "Zoom Fatigue,"- a genericization term of the Zoom platform used to describe fatigue from extended hours on any virtual platform. Stanford University media psychologist Jeremy Bailenson theoretically presents non-verbal overload as a reason individuals may experience Zoom Fatigue.

Non-verbal overload contains the excess four critical elements: close distance eye gazing, cognitive load (e.g., constant dissemination and reception of nonverbal cues), constant self-evaluation (e.g., conscious of appearance), and reduced mobility. Bailenson states, "There are a number of studies showing that locomotion and other movements cause better performance in meetings. For example, people who are walking, even when it is indoors, come up with more creative ideas than people who are sitting (Oppezzo & Schwartz, 2014)."

Your Heart Wants you to Move

Strategies implemented at the onset of the pandemic to flatten the curve, while beneficial for reducing the spread of the virus, resulted in significant declines in physical activity, even in physically active individuals. Continued use of virtual platforms necessitates addressing a critical balance between physical activity and sitting behaviors. There is evidence that physical inactivity causes detrimental effects on cardiovascular function within a short period. Studies have shown that 3–6 h of uninterrupted sitting is sufficient to cause significant deterioration of vascular function. Within 3-5 days, clinicians can observe a reduction in artery diameter. After one week of reduced physical activity, researchers can detect an approximate 56% decline in artery flow. Moreover, within a few weeks, individuals can experience cardiac atrophy (decrease heart size), arterial stiffening, and narrowing of blood vessels.

As you can see, there are strong associations between sedentary behavior and cardiovascular disease risk. As we have progressed through the pandemic, we have learned that the presence of some cardiovascular disease and risk factors make us more at risk of contracting a more severe case of COVID-19, resulting in poor outcomes and prognosis. A position paper published in Translational Behavioral Medicine suggested that the time engaged in sedentary behavior and sitting as a result of our new "normal" not only threatens cardiovascular health but, given the relation between poor cardiovascular and COVID-19 outcomes, is a major target for health behavior change as we move toward reopening.

Tips to maintain an active lifestyle despite virtual meetings:

  • Implement a home-based physical activity program. If you continue to utilize virtual meeting platforms for work, especially at home, set aside time to engage in some physical activity.
  • Reduce the number of virtual meetings you commit to attend each day. Doing so will help reduce aspects of non-verbal overload.
  • Schedule meetings with a minimum 10- to 15-minute window between sessions. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition recommends PA accumulation can begin with five-minute increments. Granting yourself a 10- to 15-minute window provides time for short bursts of activity.
  • Turn off your camera and move. Walk around and stretch every 25 to 30 minutes during the meeting.

Stay active with Technogym

For over 35 years, Technogym has been committed to promoting Wellness, a lifestyle based on regular exercise, a balanced diet and a positive mental approach.
Thanks to Technogym fitness solutions, you can stay active and take care of your health at the same time, decreasing the risk of physical and psychological illnesses through constant physical activity.
Running is one of the best exercises for the body. Beyond helping in losing weight, strengthening and defining your muscles, running helps improve endurance, boost the immune system, control blood sugar, and have a healthier skin. However, the benefits of running on a treadmill are not just physical, but also mental: the most known are that it relieves stress and anxiety and promotes better sleep.

Treadmills are the best tools for having a complete and total body workout, offering very different training experiences based on individual necessities.

MyRun is Technogym’s new compact and silent home treadmill connects to your tablet and offers you a wide range of on-demand running and walking workouts: trainer-led sessions, goal-focused routines & virtual training.
Place your tablet on MyRun’s console. Thanks to the new dedicated Technogym Live for MyRun, you will have access to the endless Technogym Live training options that allow you to choose your favorite workout from its extensive on-demand training content library featuring the most engaging one-to-one trainer-led sessions, athletic training routines, tailored workouts or virtual routes set in nature or in your favorite city.

Discover Technogym MyRun

Even when working, you can combat sedentary lifestyles and stay active, turning the hours spent sitting from passive into active time, with a positive impact on your well-being.
Wellness Ball Active Sitting is an exercise ball that can also be used as an alternative to traditional seating to really workout your core muscles: it allows you to stay in motion while sitting.
With Wellness Ball Active Sitting, your back actually performs a series of micromovements that improve the spine-stabilising action of your abdominal and lumbar muscles. Thanks to its simplicity, this exercise ball supports you to obtain the perfect posture.
By performing specific exercises, the Wellness Ball allows you to tone up your muscles and improve balance and flexibility. Moreover, the QR Code placed on the handle of the cover provides easy access to training programs and gym ball exercises developed specifically for Wellness Ball Active Sitting, which feels like you have a virtual trainer that is always with you.

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