Sedentary Lifestyles & The Workplace: Health Implications & Costs

June 21, 2022

We do it during the commute to work, continue while at work, during the commute home and through our evenings. And it’s not healthy. In fact, sedentary lifestyles are killing people. Sedentary lifestyles have long been associated with decreased health.

Researchers in the UK have attempted to put numbers to the problem. And the numbers are big. Leonie Heron and colleagues point their fingers towards sedentary lifestyles for causing up to 70,000 deaths in the UK alone. They outline that a lack of regular movement increases the risk of heart disease, type-2 diabetes and cancer, all of which creates a £700 million burden on the NHS, the UK’s medical system.

The researchers are quick to point out their study does not prove cause and effect. Nonetheless, the team says the new research provides reasonable estimates of the cost of not moving. They are calling for public health interventions to reduce sedentary behaviour and provide clear guidelines to the public.

Sedentary lifestyles manifest themselves in the workplace as ‘binge sitting’, or sitting for long periods of time.

Reducing and preventing binge sitting becomes fragmented in the workplace. Even though 50% of workplaces are aware of the issues caused through lack of movement, employees feel pressure to continuously be present at their workstations. Conversely, managers and policy makers similarly feel stopping work to break the cycle of binge sitting negatively impacts productivity.

Space Planners and CRES Teams can be part of a wider strategy to combat binge sitting by critically assessing workspaces and space deployment. Team proximities or adjacencies can be adjusted promoting greater face-to-face communication, encouraging better communication and more daily movement. Additionally, the types of workstations deployed can be altered giving users choice and encouraging increased movement, such as stand-up desks or replacing seats with exercise balls.

Exercise, even just regularly moving, is beneficial in so many aspects of our lives. Exercise helps to remain focussed, boosts productivity and improves well-being. Regular exercise impacting health also reduces absenteeism. Here are eight exercises that can be done through the day, even while sitting in the office.

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