The sedentary office - it's time to make a stand

24 May 2018

More than 95 per cent of adults are classified as being inactive according to World Health Organization guidelines.

The importance of physical inactivity as a major risk for chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes and even cancer is now well established. This has led to many health agencies spreading the word that more people need to become more active. The minimum recommendation is to accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity each week. The biggest hurdle, however, is time. Work hours alone now make up 60 per cent of people’s total waking hours.

The modern office is an inactivity trap. Between 65 -75 per cent of office working hours are spent sitting, often for prolonged periods of time. The simplest of behaviour changes is to work fewer hours and use the spare time to take on more physically active pastimes. From the expensive to the simple, everything from tinkering, walking, sports and the gym can add significant amounts of activity into the week.

The other strategy is to change the office environment. Over the past few years standing desks have becoming increasingly common. The evidence that standing for periods throughout the day is beneficial for health has now been measured in a number of different scientific studies. These studies show that standing time has positive benefits on heart, musculoskeletal and mental health. Some countries have been early adopters of sit-stand desks, and in Scandinavia countries 90 per cent of office workers have desks or workstations that can be used in either a standing or sitting position. By way of comparison, in the UK, only 1 per cent of office workers have this option.

Implications

Standing desks provide a distinct health advantage. Other strategies to create ‘movement-friendly’ spaces include the placement of kitchens, toilets, meeting rooms, stairs and lifts in areas requiring greater physical activity to get to and utilise. It’s time to stand to attention and work more productively and healthily.

Last Reviewed: 24 May 2018
© Norman Swan Medical Communications.

References

Buckley JP et al. The sedentary office: an expert statement on the growing case for change towards better health and productivity. British Journal of Sports Medicine Epub online March 26, 2015 doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2015-094618.