Many desk workers spend a lot of the day sitting down. For some people, this can mean having a completely sedentary lifestyle, which comes with health risks.
According to a new study published in JAMA, many office workers are facing health problems due to spending too many hours sitting in one place. However, they point out that workers can reduce the risks by doing extra exercise every day.
In the study, the researchers looked at data from nearly 500,000 participants in a health surveillance program in Taiwan, spanning from 1996 to 2017.
The investigation involved gathering information on participants’ occupations, lifestyles, physical activity, and overall metabolic health. It included factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels.
The results show that participants with jobs involving extended periods of sitting had a 34% higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease and a 16% higher risk of death from any cause.
The researchers suggested a potential solution to mitigate these health risks: regular exercise. Increasing daily exercise, even for those with predominantly sedentary jobs, was associated with a reduction in mortality risk.
For example, when sedentary workers added 15-30 minutes of exercise per day, their mortality risk decreased to match that of another group in the study—those who were more active at work but not engaged in regular physical activity.
An alternative strategy involves taking breaks throughout the workday to interrupt prolonged sitting. The study found that people alternating between sitting and standing during the day did not experience an increased mortality risk.
The researchers noted: “These findings suggest that reducing prolonged sitting in the workplace and/or increasing the volume or intensity of daily physical activity may be beneficial in mitigating the elevated risks of all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease associated with prolonged occupational sitting.
As part of modern lifestyles, prolonged occupational sitting is considered normal and has not received due attention, even though its deleterious effects on health outcomes have been demonstrated.
Emphasizing the associated harms and suggesting workplace system changes may help society to denormalize this common behavior, similar to the process of denormalizing smoking.”