With 50% of workers reporting that they are sitting for most of the time that they’re at work, Safe Work Australia CEO Michelle Baxter has called on employers and workers to aim to reduce their time sitting at work.
Ms Baxter’s call follows the release of a review commissioned by Safe Work Australia and conducted by a team of experts at Curtin University, examining the consequences of sedentary work based on evidence from Australia and overseas. The report also suggests potential control options.
Hazards of prolonged sitting
The review shows that prolonged, continuous sitting time is associated with a range of health problems including musculoskeletal disorders, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, some cancers and premature mortality.
What is worse is that these health problems won’t go away easily! The health issues caused by prolonged sitting is said to remain even with vigorous daily exercise. This highlights that excessive sitting and physical inactivity are separate health hazards.
Negative health effects from prolonged sitting are due to insufficient movement and muscle activity, low energy expenditure and a lack of changes in posture, the report shows.
How to get active at work
Ms Baxter said the research shows that workers should aim to substitute sitting with standing or walking when possible.
“Sitting for longer than 30 minutes without a mini-break, and sitting all day at work is likely to be detrimental to health,” said Ms Baxter.
“Early evidence suggests occupational interventions targeting sitting reduction can substantially reduce occupational sitting, at least in office workplaces.”
So how can we reduce the health hazards associated with prolonged sitting?
Professor Leon Straker from Curtin University’s School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science suggests using substitution and breaks to minimise the total time spent sitting.
“For some jobs there are simple ways to prevent prolonged occupational sitting, such as standing to read a document, having a standing or walking meeting, standing while talking on the phone, or walking to deliver a message to a colleague rather than emailing,” Professor Straker said.
The literature review, Sedentary Work: Evidence on an Emergent Work Health and Safety Issue, is available on the Safe Work Australia website.
10 super easy tips to stay active at work
Here are some super easy tips from us at Andatech on how to stay healthier at work by moving more:
- Take a break after you finish a task
- Take the stairs or the longer route from the car to your office
- Don’t eat lunch at your desk – go out!
- Stretch for 3-4 minutes every hour
- Hold a walking meeting, or simply stand during meetings and presentations
- Walk to communicate instead of calling, emailing or texting
- Use the waste bin/printer/fax/copier furthest away from your desk
- Do upper body stretches while reading emails
- Walk to get more water and stay hydrated throughout the day
- Be sure to stretch your wrists, arms, and neck muscles after long hours of typing and mousing
Feel up for a challenge? Involve your colleagues or the entire company! Get pedometers for everyone and compete for the highest number of steps daily, organise group workouts, or start a company-wide initiative to get everyone active.
Staying healthy at work is important to improve workplace safety and health because a healthy workforce is also a safe workforce. A healthy workforce can create a positive environment, increase morale, improve employees’ work-life balance and in turn, positively impact your business.
Have a comment or more suggestions to share on improving workplace health and safety? Tell us in the comments section below!