Recent research, commissioned by Public Health England and Active Working, heralds the dawn of the standing desk and urges people to avoid a sedentary lifestyle, particularly at work.
Amongst a range of recommendations, the article suggests office workers should aim for no less than 2 hours a day of standing, whilst working up to an ideal 4 hours of standing time.
Research has long linked excessive time spent sitting to increased risk of morbidity or premature death but the advice, represents the first time British workers have been provided with quantifiable targets for getting out of their seats.
“We are creatures of habit and we have come to the wrong conclusion, that sitting is the optimum way of conducting office work. We need an environment where people feel much more liberated to do desk standing.”
The study authors, who include experts from the UK, US and Australia, call for a revolution in the workplace through the use of sit-stand desks, standing-based work and regular walkabouts.
They also urge further research into whether facilities such as toilets should be moved further away from staff, some emails could be replaced by hand-delivered messages and employees could have alarms on computers or personal motion assessment devices prompting them to move.
Study co-researcher Gavin Bradley, from Active Working, a community interest company which co-commissioned the study and set up www.getbritainstanding.org, said: “We are creatures of habit and we have come to the wrong conclusion, that sitting is the optimum way of conducting office work. We need an environment where people feel much more liberated to do desk standing.”
Being sedentary and sitting is one of the greatest health risks for workers in an office. It’s been found that the risk of heart disease is increased by 50 per cent even if exercise is performed daily, there is an increased risk of physical injuries if a worker maintains a static posture and the risk of colon cancer is doubled with workers also being more than twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
Office workers spend 65% to 75% of their working hours sitting, half of which is in prolonged periods of sustained sitting, according to the study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
One in three workers spent at least three-quarters of their time at work sitting, with one study suggesting that, for those sitting more than seven hours a day, there is a 5% increased risk of premature death with each additional hour off their feet.
Another Australian study also yielded similar results, finding that prolonged sitting is a risk factor for all-cause mortality, independent of physical activity.
Bradley said some tasks, such as writing a paper or numerical analysis, were better done sitting but others such as meetings or going through your inbox were actually more productive when standing.
Standing desks typically cost hundreds of dollars each but the study says benefits are accrued through improved productivity, less absenteeism and reduced healthcare costs.