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Sitting: the Silent Office Killer

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Overtime and going home late is now a work health and safety issue

What if I told you that sitting in a chair all day – common in so many office and driving jobs – shortens your life by seven years? Got your attention? Good.

Sitting is such a normal daily activity that it’s hard to even think of it as an occupational health and safety risk. Yet it’s probably one of the most dangerous activities most of us do at work – at least over the long term.

Sitting more than six hours a day – and that includes couch time at home – increases your risk of heart disease by up to 64%. You’re increasing your chance of getting certain types of cancer. You’re more likely to be obese and develop diabetes.

Overall, the World Health Organisation reports physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for death. More than 11 hours a day spent sitting and your chance of dying from any cause at all goes up 40%.


So as an work health and safety officer or a caring human being, what can you do to overcome this problem?So as an occupational health and safety officer – as a caring human being! – what can you do to help your workmates (and yourself) overcome this problem?

Fortunately, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. In many cases it’s not the total amount of time we spend sitting, it’s the long stretches – hours at a time – without any physical activity at all.

Cut out cancer

Cancer researchers have correlated sitting with increased risk of cancer. Everything causes cancer, so why not sitting? Actually, what the researchers found was that physical activity may actually reduce the inflammation linked to increased cancer risk. Solution? Simple. Take a break. Get up every hour and move around for a few minutes. Grab a drink, go for a walk or stretch out – whatever works for you.

Dodge diabetes

Diabetes is a lifestyle disease associated with a sedentary lifestyle. A number of studies have linked long periods of time (2 hours plus) spent sitting with increased risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Changes in your lifestyle that make you less active are also a problem – dropping from a normal activity level of 10,000+ steps a day to less than 5,000 (as if you’d just changed to a desk job…) causes physical changes in your body that directly increase your risk of type 2 diabetes.

Outrun obesity

Far and away the most obvious effect of sitting all day is obesity. Sitting all day burns fewer kilojoules than being active, or even just standing. It’s often easier to snack a lot too, especially in an office full of interesting treats. Most remarkably, the mechanical pressure (ie the weight of your body) pressing down on the fat cells in your bottom actually forces the cells to transform and become bigger. Not only are you more likely to carry excess weight, more of it will be on your bum!

How to stop sitting so much at work

Sitting for long periods of the time is the main risk factorThe key risk factor in each case is sitting for extended periods with NO activity at all. Setting an alarm to remind you to get up each hour and move around is one of the simplest and most effective methods of overcoming these health problems.

There are other tools too – try getting a pedometer and aim to do at least 10,000 steps a day. You’ll soon find yourself looking for opportunities to walk around at work so you don’t have to do them at home!

In fact there are many ways to increase physical activity at work: using standing desks, walking to talk to colleagues and making exercise a fun workplace activity. We’ve prepared a whole list of them in our article: How to Workout at Work.

If you are an occupational health and safety officer or a concerned employee and need more information, try our article: Why you should shape up your workplace. Beyond a reduced chance for a number of lifestyle diseases, there are actually a number of tangible benefits associated with a fit and healthy workplace – for employees and employers!

Every day is doing you damage so don’t put it off! Stop sitting so much at work and start cutting your risk of developing a host of deadly diseases.




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William Cowie

William Cowie

William Cowie

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