According to the first official guidelines on the subject, office-based staff need to break up periods of prolonged sitting with regular walkabouts and standing activities. More specifically, office workers must be on their feet for at least two hours every day while they are at work.
The guidance, which was recently published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, warns that 60% of the UK population’s waking hours are spent sedentary.
Public Health England and the Active Working Community Interest Company commissioned a group of international experts to provide the guidelines for employers, in an attempt to promote more active working habits.
Prolonged Sitting Increases Risk of Serious Illness & Premature Death
Prolonged periods of sitting have been linked to a heightened risk of serious illness and even premature death.
Professor John Buckley, from the University of Chester, said: “For those working in offices, 65 to 75% of their working hours are spent sitting, of which more than 50% of this is accumulated in prolonged periods of sustained sitting.
“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.”
Individuals are recommended to stand up for at least two hours every day to start with, progressing to four hours per day thereafter. They are also advised to engage in some “light activity” during the working day.
Employers Have an Important Role to Play
The guidelines also highlight the important role played by employers when it comes to raising awareness about the detrimental effects of sitting down for too long, both at work and at home.
Furthermore, staff should be encouraged to live a healthier lifestyle overall and cut down on drinking and smoking in addition to eating healthier.
Employers, say the guidelines, could also decide when and how staff take breaks throughout the day which involve standing and/or moving.
Musculoskeletal pain and fatigue can be alleviated by “light walks” and the use of adjustable sit-stand desks at work, which employers are encouraged to provide so that workers can carry out their duties while standing up.
Professor Buckley, who is a professor of applied exercise science, further added: “You shouldn’t be sitting for 45 minutes at any one time, so at least stand up. By standing up you have burned one calorie. If you sit down your muscles have to work to ease you back into that chair, so you have burned another calorie doing that.
“For every minute I stand I am burning between a half and one calorie more than someone sitting down.” Professor Buckley said it was equivalent to losing 8lbs of fat over the course of a year.
Employers need to focus more and more on the health and welfare of all their workers and with our help our clients can fulfil their obligations in the most cost-effective manner. This not only benefits your employees directly, but also serves to show that you are a caring employer to work for.
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