As fewer people smoke, the search is on for the next unhealthy habit we can get rid of. Sitting seems like the culprit.
Workplace health has always been important, but employers are increasingly becoming more aware of this crucial area. Not only is it important for staff members’ life expectancy, a healthy workforce is more productive and satis ed with their job. A lot of big steps forward have been made over the last decade or so, with companies promoting exercise, offering gym memberships as an employment benefit and providing staff with healthy snacks like fruit. However, there is one major unhealthy habit that has not yet been removed from the workplace: sitting.
What seems like one of the most ordinary activities possible is actually a health risk, not because of some fundamental aw in the way we do it, but because of the large proportion of the day spent in a chair. All this inactivity is not good for our hearts, our waistlines or our life expectancy, which has caused some to claim sitting is the new smoking. Talking to the Mirror, Gavin Bradley - director of fitness campaign Get Britain Standing - said: “It’s like smoking during the 1970s and passive smoking during the 90s. We all know a sedentary lifestyle is bad for us, we just don’t realise how bad it is. Spending less time sitting down really can add years to your life. That is the most important message. Unfortunately, it also seems to be the hardest one for people to believe.”
This might seem extreme, but one study found that men who sit for more than six hours per day are 50 per cent more likely to die from a chronic condition than those who sit for less than three hours. Even mental health issues such as depression and dementia have been linked to spending too much time sat down each day.
Part of the reason for sitting’s unhealthiness is obesity. Being sat down only burns one calorie per minute, so in a six-hour workday your body will only get through 360 calories; about enough for a small chicken salad. Most people will consume many more calories than this. In addition, sitting down causes the enzymes that break down fat to drop by 90 per cent.
We know how dangerous obesity can be, but is sitting down really responsible? Well, people with jobs that require them to stand up suffer from half the rate of heart disease as people who sit down, so it would seem it plays a signi cant factor.
Ultimately, the next stage in workplace health has to be working out how to avoid long periods of sitting. Otherwise, your employees will be open to all the health risks that come with a sedentary lifestyle.