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The Health Risks of Sitting At Work

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Over the past few years, there has been a growing appreciation for the value in being active at work.  Whether it’s going for regular walks or something more vigorous, numerous studies have shown the benefits to our wellbeing and productivity of a bit of physical activity during our work day. Indeed, this understanding has underpinned the rise in standing desks, which offer to get us off our feet as we work. Some of these devices have even installed basic treadmills to our desks so that we literally walk whilst we work.

Whilst I imagine that is a little too far-fetched for many of us, a recent study should bring home the danger inherent in sitting at a desk for long hours each day. The study finds that when we sit for prolonged periods, we put ourselves at increased risk of all manner of diseases, including cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

"More than one-half of an average person’s day is spent being sedentary — sitting, watching television or working at a computer," the authors say. "Our study finds that, despite the health-enhancing benefits of physical activity, this alone may not be enough to reduce the risk for disease."


The researchers trawled through a total of 47 studies that had explored the link between mortality and sitting down.  This analysis revealed that those of us who sit for prolonged periods of time were around 25 percent more likely to die from various health problems than those who were more active during their normal day.

How much sitting is too much?

Whilst a definite danger level wasn’t provided, the research did nonetheless suggest that more than 8 hours each day is likely to be connected to a range of negative health risks. When you couple our often sedentary work lives with watching television or playing video games at home, I’m sure many of us exceed that level quite comfortably.

The study suggests that this level of sitting can be putting us at an 18 percent higher risk of suffering some kind of cardiovascular disease, and also a 17 percent higher risk of contracting cancer.  Diabetes was even worse, with prolonged sitting said to give us a 91 percent higher probability of contracting type 2 diabetes.

Exercise is no panacea

Interestingly, whilst the authors highlight that exercise can mitigate some of the risks involved with prolonged sitting, and is certainly better than none at all, it was not possible to exercise away the full extent of the risk associated with sitting for such a long time.

As an example, if you exercised as well as sat in an office job, the data suggests you reduce the risk by around 1/3 over someone that sits without exercising. So, certainly better, but not enough to fully mitigate the risks.

With the study covering a collective sample of over 800,000 people, it’s believed to be one of the largest ever conducted on this topic. It should provide a salient warning to all of us that we should get out of our chairs at work and move around as often as possible.

How often do you usually sit during your normal day? Would this research prompt you to change your routine and try to be more active during your work day?

er 800,000 people, it’s believed to be one of the largest ever conducted into this topic.  It should provide a salient warning to all of us that we should get out of our chairs at work and move around as often as possible.

How often do you usually sit during your normal day?  Would this research prompt you to change your routine and try and be more active during your work day?

SOURCES
University Health Netwrok: New study takes a stand on too much sitting