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Key health issues related to sitting

June 12, 2019

Are you sitting comfortably?

 

The likelihood is that you’re reading this while sitting at your desk, though maybe you’re on your phone while sitting on a train commuting to work, or sitting comfortably at home after a long day in the office?

 

As our lifestyles are becoming less active than in previous generations, there are indications that sedentary behaviour and sitting in particular, can have major implications to our health and wellbeing. [i]

Statistics are reflecting behaviours we are all familiar with and a Department of Health review into sedentary behaviour and obesity summarised that approximately 50-60% of adults’ waking hours are spent sedentary.[ii]

 

Sedentary behaviour has been shown to be a risk factor in many of the leading causes of death worldwide[iii], these include:   

  • Ischaemic Heart Disease (aka coronary heart disease)[iv]

  • Stroke[v]

  • Diabetes[vi]

  • Some cancers (including bowel cancer[vii])

  • Hypertensive Heart Disease (caused by high blood pressure)

 

An increasing amount of studies are now showing that it’s not just a lack of vigorous exercise or a propensity towards obesity that may be the problem, but that sitting itself - particularly for periods of 30 minutes or more – may be bad for us.

 

The NHS advises that we reduce sitting time and exercise a minimum of 150 minutes a week in order to reduce the risk of ill health from inactivity.[viii]  Though Professor Stuart Biddle, Professor of Physical Activity and Health explains “…poor health effects from too much sitting are separate from whether you are physically active or not. They are separate behaviours in the same way smoking is different from diet”[ix]

 

So while you may go to the gym for an hour a day, for optimum health benefits, you should also consider your activity levels during the times of day you’re sitting.  It’s widely recommended that standing up and/or moving around for five minutes out of every half an hour is a sensible course of action.  

 

Reducing the harm of too much sitting.
According to the WHO, many of the leading causes of death are lifestyle-related. So what can we do to limit the problems caused by our day-to-day lives?

 

At home:

Reduce inactive screen time, particularly for children.  Try and stand or walk around when there are breaks in or between shows. 

 

Multi-task during your TV time – try some exercise such as lifting hand weights, or stretching; do some chores such as ironing or food preparation, but do it standing up!

 

Increase activity levels by taking an evening stroll, or playing active games with your children or pets.

 

During travel:

The additional steps you can build up on your commute can really add up.  Walk or cycle if you can, stand whenever you can – and always give up your seat to someone less able than you when you can - it'll help benefit your wellbeing, as well as theirs.

 

At work:
Get up, stand up and move.  Hold stand-up meetings (particularly good for short catch-ups), visit your colleague’s desk rather than emailing, try standing when you make a phone call. Try and stand up at least once every 30 minutes and if you can, move. Offer to make that cup of tea, visit another part of the office or run errands.

 

If you or your employer can, invest in stand-up or adjustable desks, so that you can make a choice as to whether you want to stand or sit for different periods of the day.  Try and extend your standing periods over time.

 

Standing more at work will not only have a positive impact on your physical health, but it may also have positive implications to your mental wellbeing and aid concentration and productivity too!

 

The AFS-TEX range from Floortex is specifically designed for use with both standing and sit-to-stand desks, to ensure users remain comfortable and supported whilst working. The range helps to keep users’ feet cushioned as well as using visual and tactile cues to encourage regular movement. 

 

 

[i] DoH – Sedentary Behaviour and Obesity: Review of the Current Scientific Evidence https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/213745/dh_128225.pdf

 

[ii] DoH – Sedentary Behaviour and Obesity: Review of the Current Scientific Evidence https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/213745/dh_128225.pdf

 

[iii] WHO - Top Ten Leading Causes of Death in the World

https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/top-ten-leading-causes-of-death-in-the-world.html

 

[iv] British Heart Foundation – Sitting vs standing article

https://www.bhf.org.uk/news-from-the-bhf/news-archive/2015/july/sitting-vs-standing

 

[v] Stroke Association Article – New research suggests long working hours and stroke risk link

https://www.stroke.org.uk/news/stroke-association-statement-research-showing-longer-working-hours-increases-risk-stroke

 

[vi] Diabetes UK – Sitting for Long Periods Increases Risk of Type 2 Diabetes https://www.diabetes.org.uk/about_us/news_landing_page/sitting-for-long-periods-increases-risk-of-type-2-diabetes

 

[vii] American Journal of Epidemiology – Long-term sedentary work and the risk of subsite-specific colorectal cancer.

https://academic.oup.com/aje/article/173/10/1183/184892

 

[viii] NHS Choices article – Why we should sit less

https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/fitness/Pages/sitting-and-sedentary-behaviour-are-bad-for-your-health.aspx

 

[ix] British Heart Foundation article – Are you sitting too much?

https://www.bhf.org.uk/heart-matters-magazine/activity/sitting-down

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