Tips for Fighting Effects of Prolonged Sitting

December 13, 2017  |  By:  AmCom Insurance Services


Worker Health

Americans are getting less physical activity than ever, with people now spending an average of more than 13 hours a day in a chair. 

Prolonged periods of sitting are known to lead to increased obesity rates, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, diabetes – and even increased risk of cancer. 

According to a study from the National Institutes of Health, those who spent over 13 hours per day sitting had double the mortality risk of those who spent less than 11 hours per day. 

So far, despite the rise in office job cumulative-trauma injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome, there have not been any workers’ comp claims for health issues developed from sitting at a desk. 

Some claims for back problems, like compressed disks, have been covered by workers’ comp in the past, but not high blood pressure and obesity. 

While employers can’t be held liable for health issues that develop from sitting hours at a time, many companies are taking active steps to get workers on their feet again, and moving around – both in the workplace and during off-duty hours (see box on right). 

Regardless of the specific measures you take in your worksite, it’s important for senior managers to take the lead. Executives should personally participate in workplace wellness and fitness initiatives – and encourage others to join them.

How Employers Tackle Sit-itis 

  • Walking breaks. Encourage sedentary workers such as computer operators to take frequent breaks to walk around. There are significant health benefits for even short walking breaks to break up long periods of sitting, even if the caloric burn is very modest. 
  • Sit-and-stand workstations. Many companies have installed workstations that allow staff to alternate between sitting and standing while working. The sit-and-stand desk can reduce sitting time by up to two hours per day. 
  • Install high tables. Higher tables lead to more standing meetings – and more time standing rather than sitting. 
  • Have ‘walking meetings.’ Research has shown that walking meetings stimulate more creativity and more honest employee feedback than traditional meetings. And they get workers on their feet. 
  • Devote floor space to exercise. Some firms have installed exercise bikes, a basketball court, weights, yoga mats or other exercise equipment at the office – and encourage employees to use them. 
  • Allow paid time off to exercise. Clif Bar, a health food company, allows its staff up to 2½ hours of paid exercise time a week. Mobify, a Vancouver tech company, holds rooftop yoga classes for employees. 
  • Install some games. Bring in a ping pong or foosball table to get employees active. Studies have shown this physical activity gives workers a jolt of creativity and productivity that lasts for many hours.

Produced by Risk Media Solutions on behalf of AmCom Insurance Services. This article is not intended to provide legal advice, but rather perspective on recent regulatory issues, trends and standards affecting insurance, workplace safety, risk management and employee benefits. Please consult your broker or legal counsel for further information on the topics covered herein. Copyright 2017 all rights reserved.