Employees need more activity to reduce health risks of sitting all day, finds Kimberley Dondo


It may not come as a surprise that the majority of the UK workforce spends most of their time sitting down. What is shocking however is the amount of time workers spend sitting on a daily basis.

According to new research from AXA PPP healthcare nearly half (46%) of workers spend 4 to 6 hours sitting during office hours and a further 25% spend 7 to 8 hours being seated. For most the time they spend sitting isn’t just limited to office hours as a large percentage of workers commute to work. 27% spend 30-60 minutes seat bound during their daily commute and additionally 17% say their seated commute can take 1-2 hours.

Worryingly 50% have also admitted to being seated for 2-3 hours a day during their own leisure and home time, a further 31% declared even more hours, clocking in 4-6 hours of lounging time. 

What is particularly concerning about these findings is that three quarters (73%) of respondents have experienced musculoskeletal problems such as back, neck and shoulder pain which are all caused by long periods of immobility. Despite this half (51%) of workers are “okay” with their sedentary lifestyle and a third (33%) admit to being “happy” with it.

Jan Vickery, head of musculoskeletal services for AXA PPP healthcare, comments: “We cannot escape from the fact that many of us do much of our day-to-day business on our bottoms. To help bring this home, this nine-hour sit-time is tantamount to a UK flight to the Caribbean and, while it’s encouraging that some are taking steps to lower the risks associated with prolonged sitting, it’s a concern that, for others, this seems to be a low priority. To make matters worse, sedentary home and leisure patterns may further increase our susceptibility to chronic health problems.”

Only 36% of the respondents actively try to do something about the inertia by frequently getting out of their work seats to frequently move around.

Vickery adds: “For the sake of our health we need to break the sedentary cycle. Employees – and their employers – should be aware that adopting and developing better habits can make a big difference. Making a point of getting up and about every half hour – whether to speak with a colleague or just to stretch your legs – should help you to feel more energised and productive. Perhaps it’s time to give that old exhortation ‘Bottoms up’ a new lease of life to remind ourselves to get up and off our chairs more often.”