We all know that the human body was designed for movement & that we should alternate between sitting, standing and moving around. Employees who need to spend long periods of time in a seated position are at risk of injury and more prone to a variety of health problems. Research over the last several years has identified the true effects that sedentary work has had on our bodies.
What Are The Health Problems?
Sedentary behaviour has been shown to be more damaging than smoking, poor diet, or lack of vigorous exercise.
Those who sit for long periods of time are at a higher risk of chronic disease, chronic injury and even pre-mature death. Prolonged sitting is thought to slow the metabolism and affect the way the body controls sugar levels, blood pressure and the breakdown of fat. The effects of prolonged stretches of immobility can still be experienced by those who participate in moderate to rigorous exercise outside of their inactive periods.
The most common injuries occur in the muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments, affecting the neck and lower back. Prolonged sitting reduces body movement, making muscles more likely to pull, cramp or strain when stretched suddenly. It causes fatigue in the back and neck muscles as it slows the blood supply. It also puts tension on the spine, especially in the lower back or neck, which causes a steady compression on spinal discs that can hinder their nutrition and contribute to their premature degeneration.
What Are The Solutions?
Prolonged sitting is a condition of the work place, not an individual lifestyle choice, here are some ideas to help make a difference for your employees:
6 Things Employers Can Do To Help
- Promote and support standing in team meetings, and during individual desk time
- Give serious thought on how to introduce job task variation
- Provide height adjustable desks to allow employees to alternate between sitting & standing
- Provide cordless headsets to allow people on the phone to stand and move around their workstation
- Encourage workers to eat somewhere other than their desk
- Locate printers, photocopiers & water machines away from desks
4 Things Employees Can Do To Help
- Stand when on the phone or in meetings
- Use the stairs instead of the lift
- Eat lunch away from their desk
- Take a break away from their computer every 30 minutes and walk to a coworkers desk rather than phoning or emailing
Introducing these changes to reduce the impact of sedentary work and raising awareness among employees could help to counteract the impact and help the company benefit from a healthier workforce and reduce absence costs.