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Sitting work, a health risk?


Doctors in Human Movement Science, Mélanie Emile and Jérôme Vaulerin (Manager of Monaco Care Concept) give you advice on how to deal with the time spent sitting at work

Sitting at work, a health risk ?


Numerous studies show that sedentary work (sitting, in front of a screen and/or low energy expenditure) presents risks for physical health (development of cardiovascular diseases, overweight/obesity, musculoskeletal disorders, lower back pain, etc.), mental health (depression, anxiety, stress, etc.), quality of life and bone health. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), sedentary behaviour is a global public health problem, it is considered the fourth most important risk factor for mortality (6% of deaths) and accelerates the ageing of individuals. Sedentary behaviours include sitting (at work, at school or in daily life), screen time (computer or tablet, TV and mobile phone), time spent lying down (except sleeping). On average, 70% of individuals spend more than 8 hours a day sitting, mainly due to their professional activity.

For example, people who spend a long time in front of the television are more likely to be depressed. Moreover, individuals who spend 80% of their time sitting and are sedentary (physically inactive) decrease their life expectancy by 51.7 days per year (i.e. 8.5 hours less per day). Thus, to limit the deleterious effects of a sedentary lifestyle, it is important to be active at a moderate or intense level. The WHO recommends moderate intensity physical activity for at least 30 minutes 5 times a week or 10,000 steps a day. In France, the average number of steps is 5141, which is below the recommendations.


How can we reduce our sedentary time ?

Your work is sedentary and you spend more than 6 hours a day in a seated position, you have neither the time nor the motivation to practise physical activity and follow the WHO recommendations, don't worry here are some tips to reduce your sedentary time:

  1. Every hour spent sitting, get up for a few minutes, 2-3 minutes are enough to boost the physiological and metabolic systems, for example, go and see your colleague at work or go for a coffee or tea; some connected watches vibrate when your sitting time exceeds 1 hour, otherwise set alarms every hour on your phone.
  2. Walk during your breaks, coffee breaks or lunch breaks; avoid eating in front of your computer, take a real lunch break and digest by walking;
  3. If your lunch break is longer than 1 hour and you have showers available, do 30 minutes of moderate physical activity (cycling, running, swimming, brisk walking, muscle strengthening, yoga...)
  4. Encourage walking: if you come to work by car or scooter, park 5-10 minutes away from your workplace and finish the journey on foot; if you come by bus, stop 1 or 2 stops before; prefer cycling to motorised transport;
  5. Encourage standing: work in a standing position if the working conditions and environment allow it (desk designed for standing work, etc.); use a hands-free kit and make phone calls standing up and walking;
  6. Take the stairs instead of the lift: if you are not used to it, take the stairs gradually. For example, if your office is on the 5th floor, take the lift to the 3rd floor and walk up 2 floors, then the following week stop at the 2nd floor and walk up the remaining 3 floors, and so on until you no longer take the lift;
  7. Get a pedometer or a mobile app that calculates your number of steps: set yourself weekly targets;
  8. Set up your workstation in an optimal way: (a) a comfortable chair with lumbar support, feet flat on the floor or on a footrest, elbows on the armrests, hand in the extension of the forearm, back straight or slightly backwards and resting on the back of the chair, head straight or slightly bent forward, (b) room temperature between 20 and 24° C, prefer natural light rather than artificial light, put a green plant in your office (increases productivity) and ventilate the room as often as possible
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