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Is sitting the new smoking?

27 February 2019 / Employee Wellbeing Best Practices

For desk-bound office workers, sitting for long periods of time can be harmful to their health. Here’s what businesses can do to help employees ‘give up’ a sedentary lifestyle…

Newspaper editors and journalists love the shock value of a headline like, “Is sitting the new smoking?” It may be a scare tactic – but it certainly grabs your attention. And yes – there are health risks related to sitting for long periods of time.

A sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and other health problems. Exercising every day obviously has a positive impact on your health, but if employees are sitting at a desk all day, all that good work can be undone. Employees need to get up at regular intervals to stretch and get the circulation going.

Stand-up desks are the obvious solution, but care must be taken with their introduction. An employee who sits all day and goes directly to standing all day can suffer from tiredness, physical aches and pains and even strains. Employees should start with an hour of sitting and an hour of standing and stretch out the amount of standing with time.

There are other behaviours in the office environment that can be encouraged to avoid sitting for long periods of time. Encouraging walking meetings will see employees move from the boardroom and out of the office to stretch their legs and get some fresh air.

As well as walking meetings, with a healthy work culture, businesses can encourage:

  • Quick coffee / tea / breaks to stretch the legs and refresh the brain
  • Morning and afternoon tea breaks up the day and gets employees out of their seats
  • Encourage lunch exercise groups – runners, basketballers, gym junkies, walkers, yoga
  • Combine after work social events with a sport like tennis, lawn bowls, softball

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