High cholesterol, lower back pain, slow circulation and colon cancer are just some of the problems being linked to too much sitting.
In fact, the scientific community has become so concerned about the ill-effects of an overly sedentary lifestyle that they have named it the ‘Sitting Disease’.
The office is a particular contributor to this problem. Many of us know what we need to do to meet recommended exercise guidelines but our work demands that we do much of our day-to-day business on our bottoms.
This not only stores up health issues but also negates the benefits of the physical exercise we do.
Sedentary jobs have increased by 83 per cent since 1950 according to government research and most British workers spend nine hours a day sitting down – the equivalent of a flight from the UK to the Caribbean.
But changes are afoot.
Businesses are increasingly realising that staff health is not only beneficial to the employee but also the employer; with greater productivity, improved morale and fewer absences.
Consequently, they are making changes which encourage staff to get on their feet and increase levels of activity.
One of the biggest workplace trends in recent years has been the increasing popularity of the adjustable-height workstation – or sit-stand desks as they are more commonly known.
If you haven’t tried it yet, standing while you work may seem a little odd, but it is a practice with a rich tradition. Winston Churchill, Benjamin Franklin and Ernest Hemingway are among those who worked at standing desks.
And the health benefits of this approach to work are seeing increasing numbers of people follow suit with modern sit-stand desks.
A 2015 study found that workers who use sit-stand desks burn around 87 calories more a day than colleagues who use traditional desks. That may not sound a lot but over a five day week that adds up to around 435 calories burnt.
Over a year that could add up to more than 22,000 additional calories burnt. The average person burns around 2,600 calories running a marathon, so that’s around the equivalent of running eight marathons.
Additional benefits include reduced back pain and creating a more collaborative environment – people are supposedly more approachable when they are not sitting down.
This move away from the desk chair is also seeing a number of companies adopt stand-up meetings. Not only is this approach healthier, but it has the added benefit of encouraging people to keep meetings short and to-the-point.
But this ‘movement in movement’ does not stop there.
Some offices now have areas where staff can work out, with gyms and yoga rooms. Google’s headquarters in New York even includes a huge rock-climbing wall.
In many workplaces the design changes are more subtle, but just as important as collectively, these changes can make a real difference.
Locating bathrooms and kitchens away from the main ‘head-down’ work areas is an emerging trend. This encourages workers to spend more time walking and to take a longer screen break.
Separate areas for collaborative working, situated away from the main desk areas also encourages workers to move around the office throughout the day.
Similarly, shared printer or photocopier rooms are being located in the central part of buildings ensuring everyone has to walk to them.
Companies are also increasingly trying to entice employees to get the blood flowing by taking the stairs more often during the day. Staircases are being made more open, wider and easily accessible to persuade people to step away from the elevator. Take a look at our Compassion video where we installed a collaborative staircase to achieve just this.
Creating inviting lunch places for people to eat also encourages them to move away from their monitors and enjoy a change of scenery and social spaces with table football and table-tennis to encourage some gentle activity.
The office has for a long time been one of the main culprits for sedentary lifestyles. Now being active increasingly begins in the workplace.