Whether you're an office worker sitting at a desk or a field worker operating a plant, it's easy to clock up 10 hours of sitting per day of sitting.
Don’t think its happening to you? Do a quick calculation!
|Sitting in the car, bus or train to and from work||2|
|Working at the computer or operating a machine||6|
|Watching television, iPad, Netflix etc||1|
|Sitting for meals||1|
Excessive sitting has been linked with numerous health problems, including:
- Lower energy expenditure (burning fewer kilojoules);
- Reduced arterial dilation and venous return of blood to the heart;
- Reduced responsiveness to insulin;
- Increased LDL (the ‘bad’ cholesterol) levels;
- Weakened muscles;
- Decreased bone density; and
- Reduced blood flow to the brain (lowered alertness and mood enhancing hormones).
For those who think they are sufficiently active and enjoy at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise most days of the week, think again. You may be in an increasingly populated group of people termed ‘actively sedentary’ – those who may do some vigorous exercise after work, but still accumulate more than eight hours per day sitting. This group is still at increased risk of preventable diseases including diabetes, heart disease, some cancers and musculoskeletal disorders despite believing they are leading an active, healthy lifestyle. In fact, their mortality risk within the subsequent 3 years is 15% higher than a person who enjoys more incidental movement.(1)
While the benefits of regular physical activity don’t completely reduce the effects of prolonged sitting, don’t give up! Keep going to the gym, walking the dog, playing tennis or whatever gives you the most enjoyment. Just look for opportunities to increase your incidental movement and reduce your cumulative sitting time as well. Incidental movement might include walking to talk to a co-worker rather than emailing, going to a more distant printer to retrieve a print job or taking the stairs rather than the lift. There is evidence to show that simple strategies are effective in reducing occupational sitting time and promoting health.
Sit-stand workstations are the most obvious and practical response to help workers be more active. Studies show that a sit-stand workstation alone results in a modest reduction in occupational sitting time. However, a combination strategy offers a three-fold greater reduction in sitting time. The combination strategy includes:
- Provision of activity-based workstations such as sit-stand desks,
- Provision of education and health promotion information, and
- Management support for a cultural environment that promotes activity.(2,3)
Education in the use of sit-stand workstations is critical as some studies have shown an increase, rather than the expected decrease, in musculoskeletal discomfort, predominantly due to inappropriate use of the desks. With the addition of education as well as provision of a sit-stand workstation, studies show reduced musculoskeletal discomfort (4,5). With a healthy work culture, activity-based workstations and education, workers can be more comfortable, more productive, and enjoy good health and career longevity.
 Straker L, Dunstan D, Gilson N (2016) Sedentary Work: Evidence on an emergent work health and safety issue. Safe Work Australia
 Healy G N, Eakin, E G, Lamontagne A D, Owen N, Winkler E A, Wiesner G, Dunstan D W (2013) Reducing sitting time in office workers: short-term efficacy of a multicomponent intervention. Preventative Medicine 57(1), 43-48
 Neuhaus M, Eakin E G, Straker L, Owen N, Dunstan D W, Reid N, & Healy G N (2014. Reducing occupational sedentary time: a systematic review and meta-analysis of evidence on activity-permissive workstations. Obesity Reviews, 15(10): 822-838
 Healy G N, Lawler S P, Thorp A, Neuhaus M, Robson E L, Owen N, & Dunstan D W (2012) Reducing prolonged sitting in the workplace
 Swartz A M, Rote A E, Welch W A, Maeda H, Hart T L, Cho Y I, & Strath S J (2014). Prompts to disrupt sitting time and increase physical activity at work, 2011-2012. Preventing Chronic Disease: 11, 73.