Office Workers ‘Should Stand Up for 2 Hours a Day’ to Avoid Health Risks

Wednesday June 3rd 2015

According to the first official UK guidance, office workers should be standing up for at least two hours of the day during their working hours.

The guidance was set out by an international panel of experts at the request of Active Working CIC (community interest company) and Public Health England.

A study printed in the British Journal of Sport Medicine has discovered that the increase in deskbound office culture has major implications on health for works. These include heightened risk of back pain, depression, diabetes and heart disease.

Experts have discovered mounting evidence that people who are physically active still face health risks if they spend drawn out periods of time sat down at work. They have asked for the quota to be raised eventually to four hours a day, using sit-stand desks, regular walkabouts and standing-based work to break up prolonged periods of sitting down.

Modifiable sit-stand work stations are increasingly popular in Norway and Sweden. The Furniture Industry Research Association has produced data that estimates 90 percent of office workers in Scandinavia have access to sit-stand workstations in comparison to just one percent in Britain.

Lead author from Chester University’s Institute of Medicine, Professor John Buckley, said that for people working in office environments, 65-75 percent of their work hours are spent sat down. More than 50 percent of this is collects as long-lasting periods of nonstop sitting.

He pointed out that the evidence is undoubtedly suggesting that an initial behavioural step would be to simply get staff moving and standing more regularly during working hours.

Professor Buckley also said that although longer-term studies into intervention are needed, the amount of consistent evidence collected up to now combined with the public health context of increasing chronic diseases justifies these first guidelines.

In addition to recommending that employees look into other healthy actions such as eating a nutrient-rich diet and reducing smoking and drinking, the guidelines suggest employers should provide warnings to their staff about the prospective dangers of spending too much time sitting down, both at work and home.

Businesses such as Johnson and Johnson are starting to adhere to the guidelines. They have bought new workstations for people working in their Inverness offices. Consultancy firm EY (previously Ernst and Young) is assisting in the development of an ‘active innovation working centre’ which is set to reduce periods of inactivity in the office.

Founding director of the Get Britain Standing Campaign, Gavin Bradley, also supports the study. His campaign helps to raise awareness of the implications of prolonged periods of sitting down at work.

Bradley also manages the Active Working organisation. He said that the significant moment for him was when he saw the proof that problems are not just caused by obesity, but by being deskbound for even a few hours. Although he is a triathelte, he works in a fairly sedentary situation and prolonged sitting can be classed as anything over half an hour.