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The sedentary ofﬁce: a growing case for change towards better health and productivity.
J.P. Buckley et al.
Br J Sports Med 2015; DOI: 10.1136/bjsports-2015-094618.
Since the second half of the 20th century, physical activity during work has successively lessened while most jobs include prolonged time spent sitting on a desk (1). In parallel, evidence accumulates that the amount of time per day spent sitting increases the risk of developing diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease (2).
A group of experts around John Buckley were therefore invited by Public Health England and Active Working CIC, a community interest company, to formulate guidelines helping employers to provide an environment aiding office workers to avoid extended non-active, i.e. sitting periods. Key elements of the presented guidelines include the underlining of negative effects of prolonged sitting to workers as well as the provion of a working environment stimulating frequent light movements and reducing sitting time (4).
The authors give only few practical advice and recommend that “employers need to evaluate the best ways to achieve this (i.e. reducing sitting time)” (4). This obviously agrees with the heterogeneity of desk jobs and their requirements. Yet, the only measure discussed - the introduction of standing desks - appears somewhat odd, as does the focus on replacing sitting time with standing (defined as light activity) instead of recurrent walking or other forms of light movement. Indeed, energy expenditure is higher for standing than for sitting and observational studies have reported higher cardiovascular and metabolic risk for people standing less than 2 hours per day, than for those whose occupation involves standing or light movements (5 & 6). However, most desk work includes remaining at the same place for some time, which would not be altered by using a standing workstation. In fact, one static posture might just be replaced by another one.
Instead, more complex environmental / habitual factors could be made use of in order to promote activity beyond standing, such as walking short distances to a (shared) printer, or by fostering the use of stairs instead of the elevator. Indeed, stairs are often the architectural “stepchild” of office buildings, while elevators are located in easily accessible places. In addition, speed is a good incentive for taking the stairs, especially if only one floor has to be gapped. Therefore, a variety of solutions need to be considered by employers, beyond the design of office furniture.
The second, and potentially much more relevant point is to raise awareness of the increasing cardiovascular risk brought with prolonged sitting time. This point is only briefly mentioned by the authors and beyond the advice to actively promote this knowledge no practical advise is given. While obviously, active breaks can not be forced upon employees, support of active transportation (e.g. biking) and working time guidelines, including providing opportunities of active breaks within the daily schedule, as well as relevant facilities such as showers.
Nicolle KränkelEACPR Exercise, Basic and Translational Research Section
The content of this article reflects the personal opinion of the author/s and is not necessarily the official position of the European Society of Cardiology