Multiple studies have identified the link between poor health and a sedentary lifestyle. An analysis of studies suggests that the greater amount of time someone spends sitting, the greater their risk of “all-cause mortality”.

In the 1950s, one of the first studies that investigated the link between sitting down and poor health took place. It found that drivers of double-decker busses were twice as likely to suffer heart attacks compared to conductors.

Kelly Mackintosh, a professor of physical activity and health at Swansea University, explained: “You might be very active, but that doesn’t entirely protect you from being sedentary.

“I could go for an hour-long run with the dog every morning and meet the government guidelines for physical activity, but then sit down or do sedentary activities for the rest of the day – which would mean that I’d be classed as sedentary, in terms of risk.”

The problems caused by sitting down can be categorised into two groups – postural problems and cardio-metabolic problems.

When you sit down for an extended period of time, your muscles and tendons will become stiff, leading to patellofemoral pain syndrome and lower back pain.

A recent study found that sitting for a long time also causes hip extension issues, which can then lead to musculoskeletal pain, and neck pain.

Postural issues can be combatted and prevented by stretching, mobile movements such as controlled lunges and sitting in positions that are better for joints.

Although it is unknown just why sitting causing a whole range of health issues, researchers suggest that it is because sitting down causes your body to go into a standby. Sitting for a long period slows the metabolism, constricts circulation and weakens the body’s ability to process glucose. Put simply, sitting switches off some of the body’s largest muscles, with the results ranging from weight gain to increased diabetes risk.

Some people assumed that sitting on a gym ball rather than a chair would improve their health outcomes, however, a paper which investigated this swap found that “prolonged sitting on a stability ball does not greatly alter the manner in which an individual sits, yet it appears to increase the level of discomfort”. Another study discovered links between sitting on a ball and “spinal shrinkage”.

Instead, it is suggested to work on you posture by keeping your screen at eye level and your feet flat on the ground, this will keep your hips and spine in less painful awkward positions. The best thing to do for your health would be to take quick breaks every 15, 30 or 60 minutes to stand up.

Mackintosh said: “There are a lot of studies investigating this. The optimal ‘breakup’ time remains to be identified, but, essentially, even if you have the same overall volume of ‘sitting time’, but break it up with bouts of standing, this is much better for various aspects of your health. Even standing once every 60 minutes helps.

“A key question is what employers can do to support positive behaviours and minimise sedentary behaviour. But if that’s not happening, or you’re working from home, ask yourself: is there something you’re doing that doesn’t require you to sit down? Could you read your emails standing up? Could you do business calls standing, or go for a walk while you think?”

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