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03 June 2015

Office workers need to get on their feet

New research suggests that office workers need to stand and move more frequently as part of their working day to prevent serious illness and premature death.

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Desk jockeys should make a point to stand up for at least two hours during the workday in order to avoid the negative health consequences linked to too much sitting, new research suggests.

Illness and premature death

Gradually break up periods of prolonged sitting until you're on your feet four hours a day, advises a panel of international experts. Aside from taking regular walks throughout the workday, desk-bound employees can opt for sit-stand desks or workstations that require them to stand.

Read: Too much sitting increases heart, diabetes risk

The recommendations are based on an analysis of research that links prolonged periods spent seated with a heightened risk of serious illness and premature death.

"The evidence is clearly emerging that a first 'behavioural' step could be simply to get people standing and moving more frequently as part of their working day," the study authors reported online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Increasing the amount of time that people stand could be a more achievable goal than encouraging more daily exercise, the researchers said in a journal news release.

The report was commissioned by Public Health England, which is an agency of the U.K. Department of Health, and another British organisation, Active Working Community Interest Company.

Among the panel's other recommendations for office workers:

  • Move around. Standing in one place for too long can also have harmful health effects. Changing your posture or position, or going on a brief walk can reduce the risk for musculoskeletal pain and fatigue.
  • Employers can warn their staff about the health risks associated with prolonged sitting or being sedentary both in the office and at home.
  • Employers can invest in the health of their staff by designing working environments that encourage more activity.

The researchers acknowledged that the materials they reviewed don't prove a direct cause-and-effect relationship between prolonged sitting and chronic illness.

Still, they believe on-the-job adjustments are in order. "While longer-term intervention studies are required, the level of consistent evidence accumulated to date, and the public health context of rising chronic diseases, suggest initial guidelines are justified," the panel wrote.

Read more:

Breaks from sitting good for heart

Sitting in meetings

Unpretty sitting

Image: Woman standing at desk from Shutterstock

 
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