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Could Desk Breaks Provide an Office Health Breakthrough?

Various studies have indicated that too much sitting is linked to a host of office health related-issues, including increased risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. And in many ways, this makes perfect sense – the human body is designed for physical activity, so it follows that too much sitting would be something to avoid.

Unfortunately, for many of us the course of the working day involves a lot of sitting. If we weren’t at work during the day, it’s unlikely that we’d spend anything like the amount of sedentary time an office worker does. We’d be up and about taking the dog for a walk, going shopping, maybe even going for a run or a swim. Sure, there would be some time where we’d sit down to collect our thoughts and have a cup of tea – but the sitting and the other physical activity would be more broken up.

office space / Office Health

And part of the problem, according to experts, is that the effects of too much sitting down all day can’t be offset by bursts of exercise in the evening. Dr Emma Wilmot from the Diabetes Group at the University of Leicester is quoted on the BBC’s health news pages, summing up the problem like this:

People convince themselves they are living a healthy lifestyle, doing their 30 minutes of exercise a day. But they need to think about the other 23.5 hours.

The point being made here is that those who get the half hour of exercise are likely to have better eventual health outcomes than those who don’t – but that more activity built into the day would benefit us all.

Office Health, Work and Physical Activity

Obviously, if you have a desk job you’re going to be required to spend the greater part of the day sitting down. That’s just a fact.

Or is it?

There are ways of getting at least some activity – walking across to the water cooler now and then, standing up to take telephone calls, taking a brisk walk at lunch, and so on. But in addition to that, there are now some pioneering and cutting edge ways that people are using to reduce sitting time while still at their desk.

One of the new ways of working is to use a dual-level desk, allowing the worker to alternate between a sitting and standing position throughout the day. And there’s even a treadmill desk available, allowing people to do some walking while they work.

Taking a holistic approach to health means looking at the opportunities to be healthier in everything we do. And while we may not (yet) live in the age of dual-level or treadmill desks, there are still plenty of opportunities throughout the day to get up, stretch or even do some ‘deskercise’. As One of the health experts who conducted a study on this topic says, a god slogan would be

Stand up, move more, more often

About the Author

Michael is a health blogger, writing on workplace wellbeing topics on behalf of AXA PPP healthcare business medical insurance.

Regularly blog on sites such as followhealth.co.uk, medicare8.blogspot and pmiuk.wordpress.com I have an interest in health, finance and the part that social media has to play.

3 Comments

  1. Elizabeth

    April 30, 2013 at 9:56 am

    If people make an effort to move more throughout their day I think it can be done – and you gave some great suggestions!

  2. Rick Reeves

    April 29, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    I know I do way too much sitting during the day. I don’t really think this is “news”, but the more people hear it the more it may sink in. Good stuff though!

  3. Guy Osmond

    April 29, 2013 at 5:28 am

    Some useful thoughts here. This whole topic is gaining traction, especially since the BBC picked up on the “too much sitting” research. I’ve blogged about it myself and, in our own office, we have found that “walking meetings” are a really effective way to break up the sitting day – and keep meetings on topic!

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