It’s no secret that sedentary lifestyles are becoming increasingly problematic for our physical health and mental wellbeing. Low-physical-activity office jobs have long been cited as the cause of many issues, from cardiovascular to musculoskeletal.
In this article, we’re going to be sharing some shocking statistics, as well as our advice on how to increase physical activity levels during the working day.
30% of UK adults are sedentary for at least 8 hours a day
This figure is according to The Health Survey for England and believed to rise to a significant 37% during the weekend.
It is a particularly worrying statistic alongside research released by the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health earlier this year entitled Direct Health Costs of Sedentary Behaviour in the UK.
The study explores how our low-activity lifestyles are impacting the economy as well as our own personal health.
The Journal estimated NHS costs associated with prolonged sedentary behaviour over a 12-month period (2016-2017) and revealed a shocking annual figure of £0.8 billion.
This was segmented into the following health issue categories:
- Cardiovascular: £424 million
- Type 2 Diabetes: £281 million
- Colon cancer: £30 million
- Lung cancer: £19 million
- Endometrial cancer: £7 million
Increased daily activity could prevent nearly 70,000 UK deaths
The Journal’s study suggests that if more had been done to reduce levels of sedentary behaviour, a massive 69,276 lives could have been saved across the UK in 2016.
Of course, a huge part of this comes down to personal responsibility and taking ownership for your own health and wellbeing outside of work.
However, what we want to help raise awareness of are the things that can be done within the workplace to increase physical activity during the day and therefore lower time spent sedentary.
Ways to reduce a sedentary lifestyle when you work in an office:
As an office interior design and furniture fit out company, we see just how many people are spending more and more of their time sat in one spot.
Far too many people within the modern workforce are still tethered to a dedicated desk which means they can quite easily remain seated for hours at a time.
Here are some simple ways to rethink your workspace and work culture in order to change this…
Refresh your furniture with more ergonomic products
The ideal scenario is that staff get up at least once every hour to do something physical like a walking meeting or taking a phone call on foot. The reality is that staff often get caught up in tasks and to-do lists and end up staying in the one spot for longer than intended.
This calls for ergonomic office furniture which has been designed to intuitively adapt to the way the human body moves. This type of furniture moves with the body to accommodate a number of different postures and positions to allow increased flexibility of movement.
Invest in height-adjustable desks
Sit-stand tables and height-adjustable desks used to be a luxury item that didn’t appear in many workspaces. These days, they’re becoming a more commonplace product as their health and productivity benefits become more widely acknowledged.
Offering this kind of ergonomic solution means staff can change their postures more freely in order to get bloody and oxygen pumping around the body more effectively. This will, in time, help lower the risk of health issues and also improve cognitive function.
Facilitate more agile ways of working
If you want to encourage your staff to get up out of their seats and move more during the day, you need to ensure they have access to the resource they need to still work effectively.
For example, in order for workers to move away from their workstations to work as a group and share ideas in a purpose-built environment, the right technology and furniture needs to be in place. Something like the Steelcase media:scape (pictured below) is a great way to integrate the two.
Click for further reading on the different definitions of agile working.
Encourage regular breaks from the desk
Breakout areas, social spaces and a dedicated WorkCafe are all effective ways to encourage staff to move away from their desks more regularly in a more productive way. If staff don’t have somewhere attractive, engaging or relaxing to go, they’re unlikely to be motivated to move.
Provide purpose-built spaces for physical activity
As we discussed in our article about the different types of office relaxation, many modern offices are now recognising a need to accommodate things like yoga and meditation. Providing private spaces where this kind of activity is possible is a great way to foster better physical and mental health simultaneously.