Is Prolonged Sitting a Silent Killer?

prolonged sitting in the workplace

We often think of smoking cigarettes, eating unhealthy foods, or a lack of exercise as the being the biggest contributors to an unhealthy lifestyle; now prolonged sitting can been added to that list.

For some time now, people have been becoming more sedentary in their daily lives. We consume more television, and spend increasing amounts of time each day using smartphones, computers and tablets – all of which require us to be seated, or at least stationary.

For example, if a person commutes one hour each way to their office job, sits behind a computer all day, and then spends a few hours in front of the TV at night, this could mean they have sat for a total of 13 hours, or the equivalent of over 80% of their waking day. Clearly, this doesn’t seem sustainable. We are sitting too long.

prolonged sitting

Is prolonged sitting a health risk?

Yes, over the last twelve months we’ve seen numerous reports warning about the dangers of prolonged sitting health risks, especially to office workers.

Elizabeth Anderson writing for the Telegraph was one of the first in the UK to attach ‘silent killer’ status to prolonged sitting, back in 2015.

“Britons spend 60pc of their waking hours sitting down, the authors calculate. This rises to as much as 75pc for those who work in offices. Standing on your feet for three hours longer will burn 144 calories per day.”

The Guardian reported that to counteract prolonged sitting health risks, we would require more than a gentle walk.

“At least an hour of physical activity a day may be required to offset the harmful effects of sitting at a desk for eight hours, according to the latest study to highlight the perils of a sedentary lifestyle.”

What do the experts say about sedentary behaviour?

One of the health risks associated with sedentary behaviour, in particular prolonged sitting, is damage to the heart. That is why the issue is being labelled as a silent killer, as the effects are potentially hard to detect until it’s too late. The British Heart Foundation highlighted that:

“People who spend long periods of time sitting have been found to have higher rates of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and death from all causes.”

With the high number of health risks linked to sitting too long, the importance to keep moving is growing. Some ways to combat sedentary behaviour include regular exercise and standing up to move around at least every 30 minutes.

“It doesn’t matter how you do it, just make sure you are on your feet for longer. Take a walk at lunch and eat away from your desk. Go and meet people at their desk rather than sending an email. Employers should make sure bins aren’t by desks, and are instead in a central space. If you find multiple ways of standing for longer, that can accumulate.” Dr John Buckley of the University of Chester.

woman running

Can sit/stand desks make a difference?

Yes, the popularity of standing desks is steadily growing in Europe, because they give you the flexibility to sit or stand while working. The key is to ensure that you stand safely, as prolonged standing also has health concerns. It is recommended that you gradually build up your daily standing time to four hours a day, and ensure you stand on a ‘cushioned’ surface like Orthomat® Office. Standing on a cushioned surface helps to assist circulation and absorb the impact of standing on a hard floor.

If you have a desk based job it can often be difficult to keep moving, prolonged sitting in the workplace has become an important health topic. Some tips which may help are standing while on the phone, having walking meetings or using a standing desk.

Back in 2014 people were already talking about the standing desk revolution in Scandinavia. They recognised the importance of keeping moving, to avoid health concerns. Jeremy Myerson professor of design at the Royal College of Art reported that:

“Denmark has just made it mandatory for employers to offer their staff sit-stand desks.”

standing desk

Is cycling to work good exercise?

A recent study conducted by scientists in Glasgow has revealed that one of the most effective preventative measures for overall health is as simple as getting on your bike and cycling to work. The study looked at some 250,000 commuters over a five year period and in fact, revealed that regular cycling could be more beneficial than walking – and much more beneficial than taking public transport or driving.

“Overall, 2,430 of those studied died, 3,748 were diagnosed with cancer and 1,110 had heart problems. But, during the course of the study, regular cycling cut the risk of death from any cause by 41%, the incidence of cancer by 45% and heart disease by 46%.”

Find out more about our tips for staying active, to help combat prolonged sitting.

If you have any questions get in touch with our team for more tips and advice.

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