Sedentary Workplace

Effects of prolonged sitting on health

While posture at work is recognised as a potential occupational hazard, research now links prolonged sitting with premature mortality, heart disease and diabetes. The potential adverse health risk of sedentary time needs to be considered separately to the lack of physical activity outside work hours. This follows recent evidence that (as a population health risk) reducing total time spent sitting may be at least as important as increasing participation in physical activity- in fact, 30 minutes of physical activity is as protective an exposure as 10 hours of sitting time is a harmful one. For instance, an employee may meet the minimum recommendations for physical activity by doing regular structured physical activity (such as a brisk walk or cycling for at least 30 minutes at 5 sessions per week) but typically sit for prolonged periods of the day - still placing the individual at risk. The evidence is sufficiently strong that:

  • adults who sit less throughout the day have a lower risk of death - particularly from cardiovascular disease; and
  • regardless of total sitting time, regular interruptions from sitting (even standing up) may assist in reducing risk factors for developing coronary artery disease and diabetes. Prolonged sitting is becoming an increasingly important factor in both workplace health and productivity, since chronic disease is associated with reduced productivity.