Reduce sitting in the office - the UK is building the case for change

The British Journal of Sports Medicine has published a set of recommendations for employers to reduce prolonged periods of sedentary work. The recommendations include:

  • encouraging workers to accumulate two hours a day of standing and light activity during working hours, eventually progressing to four
  • regularly breaking up seated-based work with standing-based work, with sit-stand desks highly recommended
  • similar to prolonged static seated positions, prolonged static standing postures should also be avoided
  • along with other health promotion goals, employers should promote that prolonged sitting, related to both work and leisure time, may significantly increase a person's risk of cardiometabolic diseases and premature mortality

These recommendations were the result of a study performed by scientists on invitation of Public Health England. They were asked to publicise the dangers of prolonged periods of sedentary work. "Seventy percent of the time that we spend sitting down is when we are at work. Therefore, the best place to start is by reducing that", said one of the researchers.

The recommendations from the study are based on epidemiological studies and interventional studies in which employees have to stand and/or walk more often. The results clearly showed that sitting for a prolonged period entails an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. It can also significantly shorten the lifespan.

The most encouraging evidence so far demonstrates that avoiding long sessions of sitting coupled with even short but frequent sessions of more light-intensity movement improves glucose and insulin levels. Such strategies have also been shown to reduce musculoskeletal discomfort and fatigue in office workers.

The data shows that compared with those who sit the least, those who sit the most have over twice the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and a 13% and 17% increased risk of cancer incidence and mortality respectively.

 The full report can be read here.


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