More than half of all jobs in Australia have workers sitting down for most of the time, but recent studies have shown that sitting down for prolonged periods can have health ramifications.
Safework Australia recently conducted a surveillance program into the emerging issues of sedentary work. The report focused on ‘occupational sitting’ and the potential health outcomes of that.
Jasmin Donaghey, an accredited exercise physiologist from the EPSA Health & Rehabilitation in the Adelaide Hills, knows all too well the effects of sitting down for long periods.
“There are many health ramifications from this. Prolonged inactivity increases the chances of developing a number of different chronic conditions that are detrimental to one’s quality of life. Prolonged sitting also decreases the ability of some fat burning enzymes to optimally work causing weight gain and further increasing chances to develop chronic health conditions,” says Ms Donaghey.
Mixing up between using an exercise ball, sitting and standing is best practise, she advises.
“There is also not heaps of additional movement occurring from sitting on a fit ball therefore I think it is best to switch between and fit ball and chair if possible, as this increases movement without back pain from prolonged unsupported sitting and also ensures the person is thinking about their health and may be more inclined to make other changes in their life,” says Ms Donaghey
Jill Ball, 28, an Adelaide University student studying Biology, is going for a job at Flinders Hospital in research.
“I know if I get the job much of the time I will be in the lab sitting down or writing in front of a computer. I would prefer to have a job where I stand at least 50% of the time so I am hoping I will be able to do lots of lab work,” says Ms Ball.
Increasing movement around the office is a good place to start.
“I think having ear pieces as phones is a good start as this allows people to get up and walk around when they are taking long calls. Also having the opportunity throughout the work day to get up and go for a bit of a walk,” says Ms Donaghey.
Stand-up desks are quickly becoming the new go to item due to the fact that you can vary your activity.
“Standing desks are also becoming popular as this allows the person to choose if they sit or stand which help increase activity without interrupting work flow as well,” says Ms Donaghey.
Monica Wake, 50, an office worker at Choose Your Cruise in Adelaide, knows how hard it is to stay seated for seven hours a day. “Sitting down for long periods of time makes me feel quite stagnant. I have had an office job for over 20 years and you do feel a lot less fit,” she says.
Safework SA has suggested that the mantra to reduce occupational sitting should be ‘reduce and interrupt’.
It suggests these examples of interventions:
§ switching to work on a computer at a standing workstation
§ standing to read a document
§ having a standing or walking meeting
§ standing while talking on the phone
§ walking to deliver a message to a colleague rather than emailing.