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Sitting for too long can be bad for your health

How Long Should Office Workers Be Sitting?

Is sitting really the new smoking? We look at how much office workers should be sitting and explore tips for staying healthy and productive.
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Sitting can be Dangerous

You might not realise it, but sitting for long periods can be harmful to your health. It’s not just about feeling stiff or tired; there are serious risks like weakened muscles, heart disease, and even blood clots. In fact, lack of physical activity contributes to millions of preventable deaths every year. So, if you spend most of your workday sitting, it’s time to pay attention.

What do the guidelines say?

According to Australia’s National Health Survey, nearly half of employed people aged 18-64 spend their workday mostly sitting. Unlike jobs with visible risks, like construction or mining, sedentary office work can silently harm your health. Better Health suggests that 60-75 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per day can help combat the dangers of excessive sitting. However, a study published in the journal PLOS One found that even if you exercise regularly, sitting for 10 or more hours daily increases the risk of early death by 34%.

Now, the guidelines may vary, but they all agree that more movement is essential. Here are some recommendations
for office workers who spend most of their time at a desk: 

  1. Stand or move for at least two hours a day.
  2. Limit sitting time to less than 7 hours per day.
  3. Aim for a sit-stand ratio between 1:1 and 1:3. In other words, try to stand for at least 30 minutes every hour
Remember, regular movement is crucial. Let’s compare two scenarios:
  • Spending the entire morning sitting and standing only in the afternoon.
  • Alternating between sitting and standing every 30 minutes throughout the day.
Both approaches reduce sedentary behaviour, but the second option is more beneficial. It keeps your blood flowing and counteracts a sluggish metabolis

Improving overall physical health is just the first step

Encouraging healthier practices in the office brings a wealth of benefits, extending beyond individual employees to positively impact the overall business. By prioritising wellbeing and promoting a more active work routine, companies
foster better mental health and enhanced productivity among their workforce.

Research even suggests that incorporating movement breaks, such as standing up every 30 minutes, can significantly improve working memory. Engaging in moderate exercise before sitting down further enhances brain function, creating a win-win situation for both employees and employers alike.

Now is the time to actively incorporate more movement into our workdays. While personal responsibility plays a vital role, businesses also have a crucial part to play in encouraging best practices among their staff. This can be achieved through various means, including offering support, providing incentives, or implementing specific programs like BeUpstanding, which promote regular movement and physical activity in the workplace.

It’s important to remember that finding the right balance between sitting and moving is the ultimate key to a healthier workday. Recognise that there is no one-size-fits-all approach, and what works for one person may not work for another. Take the opportunity to experiment with different strategies and listen to your body’s cues. Pay attention to how you feel
after incorporating more movement into your routine. Small changes, consistently applied, can yield significant results
over time.

By taking proactive steps to reduce sedentary behaviour and encourage physical activity, we not only safeguard our own
health but also set a positive example for future generations. Let’s prioritise our well-being and make the choice to embrace a more active and vibrant work life. Together, we can cultivate a workplace culture that values movement, vitality, and long-term health, leading to happy, healthy, and productive teams.

Best practices to improve the wellbeing of office workers

1. Have Standing Meetings

If possible, conduct meetings while standing or take a walk around the office. It’s easier to adopt healthy habits together.

2. Move Frequently

Don’t wait until you feel stiffness or pain. Take short breaks and move around regularly. Think of it like staying hydrated during exercise.

3. Use Technology

Download apps on your watch or phone to remind you to stand up and move at regular intervals.

4. Step Out for Lunch

Instead of eating at your desk, go outside. It’s an opportunity to exercise, recharge your mind, and give your eyes a break from the screen.

5. Exercise Outside of Work Hours

Aim for 2.5-5 hours per week of heart-raising activity. Strengthening exercises can help counteract the toll sitting takes on your back, neck, and legs. 

6. Adjust Your setup and Environment

onsider using standing desks or other devices that encourage movement. Organise your office space to reduce sitting time, like relocating equipment or creating standing areas for meetings.

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