The Danger of Sitting Down: A Summary of the Health Risks of Excessive Sedentary Behavior

By Ronan C. Talty
2015, Vol. 7 No. 11 | pg. 2/2 |

Further, these innovative desks also boost employees’ energy and sense of well-being, decrease their fatigue and bodily discomfort, and reduce appetite and dietary intake (Dutta, Koepp, Stovitz, Levine, & Pereira, 2014; Nerhood & Thompson, 1994). Treadmill desks, perhaps a more exotic answer than their sit-stand counterparts, offer even greater physiological outcomes in their added capacity to shed body fat (MacEwen, MacDonald, & Burr, 2015; Thompson, Koepp, & Levine, 2014). Importantly, both sit-stand desks and treadmill desks entail these benefits without a decline in work performance and productivity (MacEwen et al., 2015; Thompson et al., 2014; Dutta et al., 2014; Neuhaus et al., 2014). To date, corporate customers of alternative, sit-stand and treadmill desks include Chevron, Intel, Allstate, Boeing, Apple, and Google (Lohr, 2012).

Another option available to employers is to amend the traditional work meeting. A Microsoft study found that the average American worker spends 45 hours per week at work and 5.6 hours per week in meetings (Belkin, 2007). Walking meetings represent an original solution to decrease sedentary time by exploiting the existing workplace framework. Studies indicate that walking stimulates idea flow and enhances creativity while increasing physical activity (Oppezzo & Schwartz, 2014; Elsbach & Hargadon, 2006). This data suggests that, though the concept rests in infancy, these on-the-go meetings might prove more productive than their conference room counterparts. In some cases, the implementation of walking meetings could also free up limited office space for other uses.

Finally, responsibility for decreasing sedentary time should not rest solely on the shoulders of employers; the US government must enact a number of nationwide efforts to address the issue. First, the government can catalyze employer action by offering incentives for policies aiming to combat sedentary behavior. Many similar incentives for employee health and wellness are currently in place due to the Affordable Care Act.

Alongside these incentives, the government can generate brochures, videos, and websites to raise awareness of disproportionate sitting’s detrimental outcomes. This information might dovetail well with Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign. Changes to infrastructure represent another viable option. One research group suggests providing non sitting alternatives at community entertainment venues as a way to reduce sitting outside of the workplace (Owen, Healy, Matthews, & Dunstan, 2010).

The interventions detailed here are by no means comprehensive, and alternative strategies remain necessary to break up sedentary time in non-office based professions such as delivery or transport vehicle operators. Novel solutions will continue to emerge and ongoing evaluations of these technologies and programs will stand crucial their optimization and, ultimately, a nationwide ebb in sedentary behavior.


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