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Reducing Workplace Sitting And Its Benefits

I was recently reading the report “Reducing prolonged sitting in the workplace” that was published by VicHealth in 2012 and thought I would highlight some of the key messages delivered in the report as prolonged sitting is something that we as health professionals (osteopaths, physiotherapists, chiropractors, exercise physiologists, myotherapists) deal with on a daily basis with our clients (in both their work and out of work settings).  In the occupational work setting, prolonged sitting is one of the many hazards that are present in conjunction with the many other physical hazards associated with ergonomics as well as psychosocial hazards in the workplace.  As health care practitioners, if we are really wanting to have a major impact on our clients overall health and wellbeing, we need to focus on educating our clients about the pitfalls of prolonged sitting (total time) and its impact on health and wellbeing or we will forever be having to deal with the health (systemic disease and musculoskeletal) outcomes of this.

Key Take Home Messages (sourced directly from the report):

  • Sedentary behaviours such as sitting involve little or no energy expenditure.
  • Workplace sitting is defined as time spent sitting at work and contributes greatly to ones total time spent sitting on a daily basis.
  • Sitting times are usually measured through self report questionnaires or can measured using more complex tools such as accelerometers or inclinometeres.
  • The number of work tasks focused around sitting at a computer has increased in Australian workplaces greatly over the last few decades.
  • Australian research has found that the average office based worker spends 75% of work hours in a sedentary time.
  • It is suspected that the increase in workplace sitting has not been compensated by an increase in physical activity outside of work.
  • Time spent sitting is associated with premature mortality, diabetes and risk factors for cardiovascular disease, regardless of time spent in exercise.
  • The majority of evidence for time spent sitting has mostly been focused on television viewing, however for many adults, the workplace is likely to play a significant role in contributing to total time spent sitting over a period of a day.
  • Sitting has also been associated with an increased risk of mental disorders and depression.
  • Although there is no strong evidence from large, well-controlled trials on the direct economic impact of workplace sitting on workplaces, it may contribute indirectly to the detrimental economic outcomes by increased the risk of chronic diseases among staff.  Chronic conditions in the workplace are related to lower labour force participation and lost productivity.
  • Musculoskeletal disorders are linked to prolonged sitting and are common in the workplace (44% of compensation claims) and costly ($7400 per case).
  • Musculoskeletal disorders account for a significant proportion of workplace sick leave (15-22%) and impact worker health and wellbeing, worker morale and productivity.
  • Population groups most at risk include office workers, transportation and highly mechanised trades.
  • In Australia office based workers are the largest occupational group (12%), some 324 000 office workers in Victoria alone.   75% of work time is sedentary which makes up some 80 000 hours being seated in their working life.
  • Workplace interventions to reduce sitting time should and can include any of the following – increasing breaks from sitting time (reduces MSK discomfort and eye strain, increased productivity), Postural changes such as a sit to stand posture (not just sit or stand) (reduces MSK discomfort), Ergonomic changes to the individual workspace which can decrease sitting time and increase standing time (reduces MSK disomfort, redcues foot swelling, decreases illness and injuries, increases productivity, reduced cost of injuries, positive worker and company feedback), altering the built design of the broader workplace (increases energy and reduced tiredness, increases worker communication and interaction, decreased privacy, increased distractions).

Some of the limitations to existing literature include – mixed study quality and comparability of studies is difficult, evidence is largely from an OHS and ergonomics perspective, reliable and valid measures of workplace sitting time are generally not useed, social and economic outcomes are not usually reported.

Click here to read the full report on the Vichealth webpage or watch the VicHealth education video below.

This blog post was written by osteopath Heath Williams at Principle Four Osteopathy.  At Principle Four Osteopath we provide a range of services, including osteopathy manual therapy consultations, functional movement screening, exercise prescription, strength and conditioning and rehabilitation.

Principle Four Osteopathy is one of Melbourne City CBD and Docklands leading osteopathy clinics.  Both clinics are equipped with training equipment so that we are able to get you actively involved and moving towards a better moving you.

Principle Four Osteopathy CBD clinic is located at 29 Somerset Place, Melbourne 3000.

Principle Four Osteopathy Docklands clinic is located at 717 Bourke St, Docklands, 3008.

Book an appointment online at www.principlefourosteopathy.com or call 03 9670 9290.