Sitting too long can be bad for your health. Recent work in the UK, captured in the ‘Get Britain Standing’ website suggests that sitting over 4 hours a day leads to:
- Enzymes responsible for burning harmful blood fats shutting down
- Reduced calorie burning (Metabolic rate)
- Disrupted blood sugar levels
- Increased insulin and blood pressure levels
- Leg muscles switch off
A web-based calculator is provided where you can calculate the time you spend sitting and your risk level. However in addressing health risk associated with sedentary lifestyles, guidance on the site suggests that there is a tendency to overdo exercise and go from a ‘Reverse’ gear, or very sedentary activity levels to á ‘Third’ or ‘Fourth’ gear involving running or other strenuous activity.
This leads to stalling as the activity cannot be maintained and sedentary habits are re-established. Instead, the guidance suggests a slow, gear-by-gear, increase in activity such as more standing and walking before leading to activities like running, once there is better fitness. A snapshot of the R, and 1, 2, 3 and 4th gear levels of activity is shown below.
There are obvious implications for the design and management of work environments and a range of interesting measures to reduce sitting could be explored:
- Progressive discomfort: Should seats become progressively less comfortable after a set period of time, encouraging sitters to get up?
- Standing workstations: Should offices be provided with standing, as well as sitting, work-stations?
- Walking meetings: Instead of boardrooms and meeting rooms, should walking routes be provided for meetings?
Characteristics of healthy workspaces will be included in the Sustainable Building Assessment Tool (SBAT) Working tool, which is being developed for work environments. A paper on sedentary offices can be accessed in downloads.