Move more and sit less for good health, says paper

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Our bodies need to move to function well and avoiding static postures at the desk is key to preventing health issues.

That’s according to a new study by EU-OSHA, the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, which has considered the latest evidence on the health risks of prolonged sitting.

Well over a third (39 per cent) of people sit down to work and 28 per cent of those workers report sitting almost all their day without breaks.

Yet, just two hours at a stretch is defined as enough to be ‘prolonged sitting’, which carries significant health risks. These include low back pain, neck and shoulder complaints, certain types of cancers and premature death.

Too much sitting also risks diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The authors, who are researchers based in the Netherlands, say that always maintaining a good posture is “no longer considered ideal and is being replaced by the concept of ‘dynamic sitting’”.

“The general goal is to promote a dynamic, active workstyle: moving more and sitting less. Workers should be able to adopt a variety of positions when working and preferably be able to vary between sitting, standing and moving around,” they write.

Microbreaks are important to stretch and move to prevent ill health effects from prolonged sitting. Photograph: iStock

Individuals should aim to spend 50 per cent or less of their working day sitting, get up at least every 30 minutes and get up for ‘at least 10 minutes after two hours of sitting.’ Maximum cumulative sitting time for work should not exceed five hours each day.

Office workers and those who work from home sit most for work. Drivers, pilots, crane operators and sewing machine operators also had higher than average health risks from prolonged sitting.

The report urges employers to empower staff to take ‘microbreaks’ to stretch and move. “The opposite of sitting is not standing – it is moving,” they emphasise.

Prolonged static sitting at work: Health effects and good practice advice is available to download here


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