Macmillan Take a Stand for Workplace Health

We know that a growing number of people living with cancer are of working age, and over 70% of adults are employed and spend a large proportion of their time in the workplace. We also know that a healthy working environment can have a positive impact on health and help with long-term problems, such as cancer. So we’ve joined forces with Brunel University to take part in an exciting research study to understand more about how to develop a healthy working environment by implementing sit-stand workstations within the workplace, and evaluating their impact on physical activity and overall health levels.

Sit-stand workstations are height-adjustable desks, which can be moved up and down to allow you to sit or stand during the working day. These unconventional desks can be used to reduce prolonged sitting in the workplace. Office workers sit for over two thirds of the working day, which is linked to poor health outcomes, regardless of how active people are outside of work.

Thirty employees from Macmillan and Public Health England are taking part in the study and are being analysed at various time points to see how physically active they are. The study is made up of three different groups: one control group that continue to use their normal desk and two groups that receive a sit-stand workstation, one of which also receives additional support to use it.

This study is the first of its kind to look at the long-term effects of sit-stand workstations and is taking place over a period of 13 months. The study kicked off in October 2014 so we look forward to seeing the results at the end of 2015. The findings from this study could radically change understanding of health in the workplace and help us to better support people affected by cancer, so watch this space…

Top tips to reduce sedentary behaviour

seated exerciseWhen attempting to reduce the proportion of the day you spend sitting, it helps to have an estimate of what that is. Get Britain Standing has a sitting calculator which is a great place to start.

How much time sitting is too much? As of yet research has not provided a specific time frame as the figure would likely be influenced by individual factors such as age, health and current activity level. However, as general rule try not to remain seated for longer than 90 consecutive minutes. This may sound easier said than done, especially in an office environment so here are some helpful tips:

Active travel – incorporate light physical activity in your journey to work:

  • Cycle, walk or run to work if local.
  • Tax free bikes are available via cycle to work schemes.
  • Get off the bus one stop earlier & walk the rest of the journey.
  • Take the stairs at stations or walk up escalators.
  • Stand on the bus, train or tube.

Active working – incorporate light physical activity into your work tasks.

  • Stair climbing burns more calories than jogging or rowing (Teh and Aziz., 2002) and there is potential for more stair use throughout the working day. Climb the stairs to go in-between floors rather than waiting for the lift (often the quicker option), take the stairs in the morning or to and from your lunch break (Going down the stairs is still better than taking the lift).
  • Leave your desk for lunch (eat out, take packed lunch offsite or to a different floor)
  • Have standing or walking meetings where appropriate.
  • Stand at the back during presentations
  • Use standing desks such as this one. Or even create your own like this.
  • Leave your desk once every hour e.g. get a drink of water or print out documents
  • Stand or walk whilst on the phone.
  • Walk to a co-workers desk for a quick conversation rather than emailing/calling.
  • Perform seated exercise or stretches
  • Move your waste bin so you have to get up to use it.

Although the focus is on active in the workplace if you don’t already partake in much activity, pre/post work exercise is still good for you to start:

  • Lunchtime or post work exercise classes: exercise classes sometimes offer discounted rates during the lunch period for local company’s employees.
  • Lunchtime or post work team sports: gather li8ke minded colleagues for walks, runs, 5 a side football, rounders/cricket etc. around work hours.

Hopefully these suggestions are enough to get you moving more throughout the day, leading you away from a sedentary lifetsyle. Feel free to share ideas in the comments.


Sedentary behaviour: what’s the problem?

Sedentary behaviour of manOver the years the world of work has changed to represent cognitive employment in favor of careers requiring physical labor. Many of us spend a large proportion of our work day sitting down. We then travel home, sitting down or socialise (TV, theatre, drinks, dinner etc.) sitting down. Extended periods of sitting have become the norm.

So? What’s so bad about it?

According to Get Britain Standing, (a campaign aiming to raise awareness and educate against the dangers of sedentary working), when you sit the enzymes that help to break down fat (lipoprotein lipase) drop by 90% and sitting for an excess of 4 hours at work increases your risk of heart disease by 100%. Other health risks include a reduced metabolic rate, disrupted blood sugar levels, reduce insulin levels, increased hypertension (blood pressure) and decreased leg muscles use. More specifically sedentary behavior has been linked to an increased risk of heart/cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, obesity, high blood pressure, muscle degeneration, back ache/neck pain, osteoporosis, depression* and dementia*

*Denotes suggestion of indirect association not a definitive relationship.

Don’t underestimate how important being active during your day really is. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has stated a lack of physical activity as one of the top four leading causes of preventable death worldwide, ahead of high cholesterol, alcohol and drug abuse.

This doesn’t apply to me does it?

For those of you reading this and thinking ‘I reach &/or exceed the recommended daily/weekly exercise/activity guidelines’ that’s great and you should continue to do so. However, research has suggested that remaining seated for too long is bad for your health, regardless of how much exercise you do outside of your time spent sitting down. For example if you walk or go to the gym for 30-45 minutes but remain seated the rest of the day your lifestyle would still be described as sedentary. The associated health risks of being sedentary are not exclusive to those who appear to be overweight or obese. A slim person who is very inactive also has a higher risk of the previously mentioned conditions.

“All-day movement is now seen as being just as important for the maintenance of good health as traditional exercise.” Professor Stuart Biddle (A leading Professor of Active Living & Public Health)

Thankfully there are numerous solutions available to us to reduce our sedentary behaviours. We have always been advocates of moving more so look out for our next post which will cover a comprehensive list of simple changes anyone can make to decrease time spent sitting down each day.