Sitting at Work: Though People Know It's Bad, They Won't Change Their Ways

by Ryan Halvorson on Jun 24, 2016

A 2013–2014 Gallup poll discovered that the average worker in the U.S. spends about 47 hours on the job per week. Of those holding salaried positions, 25% report working at least 60 hours per week (Saad 2014). In 2015, On Your Feet Britain—a campaign urging office workers to get up from their desks more—released a survey that found significant inactivity among its 2,000 respondents:

  • 45% of women and 37% of men spent 30 or fewer minutes on their feet during work hours.
  • The majority of respondents ate lunch at their desk.
  • Nearly 80% believed they sat too much.
  • lmost two-thirds worried that inactivity was threatening their health (British Heart Foundation 2015).

Over the past several years, an avalanche of research has cited the many dangers of sitting too much; they include increased risk of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, some form of cancers, weight gain and even premature death (Chau et al. 2012; Dunstan, Thorp & Healy 2011; van der Ploeg et al. 2012). Some reports suggest people who sit a lot but also work out are not exempt from such health problems (Biswas et al. 2015). Standing at work doesn’t seem to do much to solve the problem, either (Chaput et al. 2015).

To confound the issue, other studies have found little—if any—association between being still and health hazards. These studies theorize that seated desk work has been unfairly maligned, and instead they blame lack of movement (Pulsford et al. 2015; van Uffelin et al. 2010).

Though many of the reports present conflicting evidence, they all agree that regular physical activity is necessary for a healthy life. Yet even with this message getting wide-spread coverage in the mass media, many people remain highly inactive throughout the day (Knox, Musson & Adams 2015). Even the fear of developing an inactivity-related disease doesn’t necessarily result in long-term behavior change (Tannenbaum et al. 2015).

To read more about understanding the biological, psychological and social ramifications of pain, please see "The Office Worker's Workout" in the online IDEA Library or in the February 2016 print issue of IDEA Fitness Journal. If you cannot access the full article and would like to, please contact the IDEA Inspired Service Team at (800) 999-4332, ext. 7.

References

Biswas, A., et al. 2015. Sedentary time and its association with risk for disease incidence, mortality, and hospitalization in adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Annals of Internal Medicine, 162 (2), 123-32.

British Heart Foundation. 2015. Office workers fear sitting too long could be impacting their health. Accessed Nov. 24, 2015. www.bhf.org.uk/news-from-the-bhf/news-archive/2015/march/on-your-feet-britain.

Chaput, J., et al. 2015. Workplace standing time and the incidence of obesity and type 2 diabetes: A longitudinal study in adults. BMC Public Health, 15, 111.

Chau, J.Y., et al. 2012. Cross-sectional associations between occupational and leisure-time sitting, physical activity and obesity in working adults. Preventive Medicine, 54 (3-4), 195-200.

Dunstan, D.W., Thorp, A.A., & Healy, G.N. 2011. Prolonged sitting: Is it a distinct coronary heart disease risk factor? Current Opinion in Cardiology, 26 (5), 412-19.

Knox, E., Musson, H., & Adams, E.J. 2015. Knowledge of physical activity recommendations in adults employed in England: Associations with individual and workplace-related predictors. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 12, 69.

Pulsford, R.M., et al. 2015. Associations of sitting behaviours with all-cause mortality over a 16-year follow-up: The Whitehall II study. International Journal of Epidemiology. doi: 10.1093/ije/dyv191.

Saad, L. 2014. The “40-hour” workweek is actually longer--by seven hours. Accessed Nov. 23, 2015. www.galup.com/poll/175286/hour-workweek-actually-longer-seven-hours.aspx.

Tannenbaum, M.B., et al. 2015. Appealing to fear: A meta analysis of fear appeal effectiveness and theories. Psychological Bulletin, 141 (6), 1178-1204.

Van Uffelin, J., et al. 2010. Occupational sitting and health risks: A systematic review. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 39 (4), 379-88.

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About the Author

Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson IDEA Author/Presenter

Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning writer and editor.