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Sedentary work: friend or foe?

The Australian workforce has, in recent decades, seen a progressive shift of active to sedentary workers, with employees significantly more stationary on days at work than on their leisure days.

This higher level of sedentary behaviour is linked to increased prevalence of:

  • chronic disease

  • heart disease

  • type 2 diabetes

  • obesity

  • related cancers

  • musculoskeletal disorders such as back pain

  • carpal tunnel syndrome

The effects aren’t limited to physical symptoms, workers are experiencing poorer mental health and lifestyle behaviours, reduced energy, and reduced productivity. Interestingly, exercise performed outside of work does not alone negate the health risks of prolonged sitting, highlighting the importance to sit less and move more at work!


Sedentary work environments are hard to avoid, here are the best ways to minimise your risk:



Sit less/move more – stand from your chair, go for a short walk every 20-30 mins

Lowers blood sugar levels, waist circumference and triglycerides

Install an ergonomic adjustable workstation and vary posture every 30mins

Reduces risk of musculoskeletal complaints and development of disorders

Limit sedentary time outside of work - get active for a minimum of 150 minutes/week of moderate to high intensity exercise, including 2 strength sessions

Treat and prevent chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and depression.

Adopt a healthy, holistic lifestyle:

  • Reduce smoking and alcohol intake

  • Improve sleep: aim for 7-8 hours/night + quality sleep (8 hours sleep opportunity)

  • Eat a well based, varied & enjoyable diet

  • Reduce stress and stay social

Reduction in all-cause mortality risk

  • Set reminders to move – it’s ok to start small and progressively build up.

  • Organise walking/standing meetings/phone calls.

  • Have an active lunch break.

  • Count your steps (7000-10,000/day).

  • Re-arrange your office to encourage intentional walks throughout the day – move things away from your desk so you have to get up e.g., your bin, use a small glass for water and get up for refills, etc.

  • Use stairs instead of lifts/escalators.

  • Take public transport or park your car further away.

  • And most importantly find exercise you enjoy!

If you need further assistance on how you can be more active and reduce sedentary behavior seek advice from one of the team today! We would love to meet you - call us on 02 8969 6300 or email!


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Church, T. S., Thomas, D. M., Tudor-Locke, C., Katzmarzyk, P. T., Earnest, C. P., Rodarte, R. Q., Martin, C. K., Blair, S. N., & Bouchard, C. (2011). Trends over 5 decades in U.S. occupation-related physical activity and their associations with obesity. PloS one, 6(5), e19657.

Department of Health and Aged Care. (2021). Physical activity and exercise guidelines for all australians. Australian Government.

Dubey, N., Dubey, G., Tripathi, H., & Naqvi, Z. A. (2019). Ergonomics for desk job workers-an overview. Int. J. Health Sci. Res, 9(7), 257-266.

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Prince, S. A., Rasmussen, C. L., Biswas, A., Holtermann, A., Aulakh, T., Merucci, K., & Coenen, P. (2021). The effect of leisure time physical activity and sedentary behaviour on the health of workers with different occupational physical activity demands: a systematic review. The international journal of behavioral nutrition and physical activity, 18(1), 100.

Safe Work. (n.d.). Sedentary work. Safe Work NSW Government.

Safe Work Australia. (n.d.). Sitting and Standing. Safe Work Australia.

Thorp, A. A., Healy, G. N., Winkler, E., Clark, B. K., Gardiner, P. A., Owen, N., & Dunstan, D. W. (2012). Prolonged sedentary time and physical activity in workplace and non-work contexts: a cross-sectional study of office, customer service and call centre employees. The international journal of behavioral nutrition and physical activity, 9, 128.

World Health Organisation. (2003). Preventing musculoskeletal disorders in the workplace. Protecting Workers' Health Series No. 5. World Health Organisation.


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