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June 2, 2015

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Office workers should stand for at least two hours a day, study advises

Guidance on how to curb health risks from too much sitting has been published for the first time in the UK.

The British Journal of Sports Medicine advises that office workers should be on their feet for a minimum of two hours daily during working hours to help workers’ health.

This daily quota should eventually be bumped up to four hours a day, breaking up prolonged periods of sitting with the use of sit-stand desks, standing based work, and regular walk-abouts, it says.

The guidance aims to make some core recommendations, amid the growing body of research linking prolonged periods spent seated – as opposed to being generally physically inactive – with a heightened risk of serious illness and premature death, and the burgeoning market of workplace products developed in response to the emerging evidence.

The authors point out that in the UK sedentary behaviour now accounts for 60 per cent of people’s waking hours and for 70 per cent of those at high risk of a long-term condition.

“For those working in offices, 65-75 per cent of their working hours are spent sitting, of which more than 50 per cent of this is accumulated in prolonged periods of sustained sitting,” they write.

“The evidence is clearly emerging that a first ‘behavioural’ step could be simply to get people standing and moving more frequently as part of their working day,” they say, adding that this is likely to be more achievable than targeted exercise.

Based on the current evidence they recommend:

  • Two hours daily of standing and light activity (light walking) during working hours, eventually progressing to a total of four hours for all office workers whose jobs are predominantly desk based
  • Regularly breaking up seated based work with standing based work, with the use of adjustable sit-stand desks/work stations
  • Avoidance of prolonged static standing, which may be as harmful as prolonged sitting
  • Altering posture/light walking to alleviate possible musculoskeletal pain and fatigue as part of the adaptive process
  • As well as encouraging staff to embrace other healthy behaviours, such as cutting down on drinking and smoking, eating a nutritious diet, and alleviating stress, employers should also warn their staff about the potential dangers of too much time spent sitting down either at work or at home

The authors add: “While longer term intervention studies are required, the level of consistent evidence accumulated to date, and the public health context of rising chronic diseases, suggest initial guidelines are justified.”

The guidance was drawn up by a panel of international experts, at the behest of Public Health England and a UK community interest company (Active Working CIC).

Sleep and Fatigue: Director’s Briefing

Fatigue is common amongst the population, but particularly among those working abnormal hours, and can arise from excessive working time or poorly designed shift patterns. It is also related to workload, in that workers are more easily fatigued if their work is machine-paced, complex or monotonous.

This free director’s briefing contains:

  • Key points;
  • Recommendations for employers;
  • Case law;
  • Legal duties.
Barbour EHS

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I sincerely hope that unscrupulous employers do not enforce standing desks to enable cramming in more workers or equipment, also not everyone would be able to stand at a heightened desk using a computer for hours at a time, for such reasons as arthritis etc.
To give the option would however be a good idea…