‘Sitting at the computer is killing us’

Despite being aware of the health risks, many office workers refuse to leave their desks. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Despite being aware of the health risks, many office workers refuse to leave their desks. Picture: Ian Rutherford

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MANY people spend only half an hour on their feet in the office each day despite most fearing that being sedentary is damaging their health, according to a new survey.

Almost two-fifths of workers confessed to e-mailing someone sitting next to them and more than half regularly eat lunch at their desk, according to research by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and Get Britain Standing.

The admissions come as a separate study warned that your risk of suffering a heart attack grows for every hour that you spend sitting down.

A campaign to encourage office staff to be more mobile at work is being launched by the two organisations, warning that sitting down too long can lead to health risks including type 2 ­diabetes. Being sedentary is also associated with obesity and weight gain, a key risk factor for coronary heart disease.

The poll of 2,000 workers, revealed 45 per cent of women and 37 per cent of men spent 30 minutes or less on their feet, with 62 per cent saying they feared it would have a negative effect on their health.

A third said they put off going to the toilet while at their desk.

Treadmill desks, used by companies such as Google and Microsoft, are becoming increasingly popular, especially in the US, as a way to encourage office staff to be active while continuing to work. The average person will burn about 100 calories for every mile that they walk.

Lisa Young, project manager for the BHF’s Health at Work programme, said: “We’re all guilty of being too glued to our screens sometimes, but these results show just how far the couch potato culture has infiltrated the workplace.

“Too many of us are tied to our desks at work, which could be increasing our risk of developing cardiovascular disease.”

Dr Mike Loosemore, head of exercise medicine at University College Hospital, said: “Inactivity and sedentary behaviour is one of the biggest challenges we have in public health today.

“Compared with 100 years ago, our levels of activity are tiny, the number of manual jobs are continually reducing, even if you dig a road up you sit in a little tractor.”

Gavin Bradley, founder of the Get Britain Standing campaign, called for workers to be more aware of their “sitting calculator” and stand up more often.He said: “This survey shows too many office workers are stuck to their desks. We all know a sedentary lifestyle is bad for us, we just don’t realise how bad it is.

“Leading a sedentary lifestyle at work could be negatively impacting your performance and increasing your risk of developing health problems later in life. Spending less time sitting down and more time moving could benefit your health and make you more productive.”

A separate study from the Medical College of Wisconsin published this month, found that for every hour spent sitting down during a person’s lifetime, the likelihood of developing heart disease goes up. The research also revealed that a daily session at the gym would not undo the damage – because any increase in fitness from an hour’s exercise is overridden by several hours of ­sitting.

To raise awareness of the new campaign, the On Your Feet Britain campaign will stage a fund-raising day on 24 April, when it will challenge workplaces to find inventive ways of getting employees on their feet, by holding walking meetings, going outside at lunchtime, or telling employees to take five minutes to stand up and stretch.

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