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Do you sit still all day? Stand up and live longer.

Restricting the amount of time spent seated every day to fewer than three hours might boost the life expectancy of adults by an extra two years, according to the authors of a new US report.

Several studies have demonstrated positive associations between sedentary behaviours (ie sitting) and health outcomes such as diabetes and death from heart and disease/stroke. However, recent studies have suggested that the effects of sedentary behaviour on health may be independent of the effects of physical activity.

The new report — Sedentary behaviour and life expectancy in the USA: a cause-deleted life table analysis in the Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine (OEM) analysed life insurance tables and found that cutting the amount of time spent sitting down every day to under three hours could add an extra two years to life expectancy. Similarly, restricting time spent watching TV to less than two hours daily could extend life expectancy by an extra 1.38 years.

The authors emphasise that their analysis assumes a causal association rather than proving that there is one. But they point to the evidence showing the detrimental effect of a sedentary lifestyle on health.

Prolonged sitting reduces life by three years: study

More bad news for sedentary workers comes from another recent (and local) study which found that adults who sat for 11 or more hours per day had a 40% increased risk of dying in the next three years compared with those who sat for fewer than four hours a day. This was after taking into account their physical activity, weight and health status.

Stand or walk more

The study’s lead author, Dr Hidde van der Ploeg, a senior research fellow at the University of Sydney’s School of Public Health, said the results on sedentary behaviour provide growing evidence of the downsides of prolonged sitting.

‘The average adult spends 90% of their leisure time sitting down and less than half of adults meet World Health Organization physical activity recommendations,’ he said.

‘Our results suggest the time people spend sitting at home, work and in traffic should be reduced by standing or walking more.’

So what should you, as an employer, do?

Employers should have provisions in your workplace health and safety policies relating to how long workers should sit in the same spot.

Risk assessment

The approach needs to be one of ensuring the work health and safety of employees while at work — and a risk assessment would be required.

Reasonable practicability elements need to be met as defined in the recent changes to the legislation.

Ergonomics literature should be consulted for postural requirements.

Pause gymnastics as well as ergonomics assessments are recommended.

For manufacturing workers, review the Hazardous Manual Tasks Code of Practice because there are no prescribed time limits for sitting at machines in WHS legislation.

Source: WorkplaceOHS visit www.workplaceohs.com.au for more information.

For further information, please contact Australian Business Consulting & Solutions on 1800 505 529 or via email.

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