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Colin Stuart, Managing Director of workplace consultancy, Baker Stuart, examines the dangers of long-term sedentary behaviour, explaining how changes to the workspace and company culture are vital in getting staff active.

Usually when we hear shocking news, its best to be seated- but for the following you may wish to stand. In recent years, research has proven that long periods of time spent sat down can increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, colon cancer, heart disease, back problems, deep vein thrombosis, brittle bones, dementia and depression.

It’s also been proven that for every hour that an adult spends sitting down in their life, the likelihood of developing heart disease goes up by 14%. Furthermore, if you are seated for more than eight hours-a-day, you will also have a 24% greater risk of developing colon cancer, a 32% higher risk of endometrial cancer and a 21% higher risk of lung cancer, than a person who sits for four.

These alarming statistics are the reason the World Health Organisation has identified ‘inactivity’ as the fourth leading cause of death, with an estimated 3.2 million loosing their lives globally to the effects of sedentary lifestyles.

Consider that the average person in Britain is seated for 8.9 hours per day, and that the average time spent sat at a desk is 7.7 hours, and you begin to understand where the problem lies.

The technology we use, paired with the ever-increasing number of hours we work, means time spent sat at our desks has naturally soared. Fortunately, by making a few changes to our physical environment activity levels can be increased.


PHYSICAL CHANGES When it comes to making changes to

the working environment, the first issue you may wish to address is the one at the centre of the problem: the desk. In Scandinavia 90% of office workers are offered the option of using sit-stand desks, (desks that heighten to accommodate a stand position) but less than 1% are offered this option in the UK.

However, since the risks associated with prolonged inactivity have become more widely known, sit-stand desks are slowly being considered as an alternative. If budgetary constraints exist, converting existing desks by using readily available devices that raise your PC/laptop may be a better option. However, the most cost- effective solution is to add touchdown points using shelves with power (and possibly data) points as an alternative workspace, to encourage people to move and stand for part of the day.


BY DESIGN In a study conducted by The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy it was found that one in five employees worked through their lunch and half of those ate at their desk. Taking regular breaks is vital and the physical design of the office can be instrumental in promoting this. Breaks can be encouraged by creating recreational spaces or environments that employees actually want to visit.

Well designed bar style, ‘break-out’ spaces promote social interaction

- as well as routine movement - alleviating all the issues associated with sedentary behaviour and fixed posture. You can limit seating in the area. Small touches such as layout, décor, and the quality of coffee will be critical in getting employees to regularly leave their desks for this space. High tables will also allow for impromptu, on-the-go meetings, making the area adaptable in its use.

A PLACE FOR EVERY TASK It is also important to look beyond

the spaces used for relaxation when

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