Health Hazards Of Prolonged Sitting Remain Overlooked

Researchers from King’s College London have found in a recent study that despite being warned about the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle, many folks do not comply with them and still sit for more than 10 hours during workdays.

The 2015 health guidelines were published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. The guidelines advised individuals, in order to minimize the negative health risks of a sedentary lifestyle to participate in between 2 to 4 hours of light activity such as brisk walking or standing up during workdays.

The guidelines stated that taking frequent short breaks which involve walking or a few stretches, can be greatly beneficial. Using stand up desks are also useful as they force a person to stand and work.

The latest study conducted by Anglia Ruskin University, Brunel University London and King’s College analyzed the public’s response to the guidelines by examining almost 500 online comments left on different UK newspaper articles including the ones covered by Daily Mirror, Guardian, Daily Mail and 3 others during a period of one month.

Their research, which was published in BMC Public Health, found that many individuals posted negative comments regarding the guidelines. This finding revealed hesitancy among a majority of the individuals.

Either the comments challenged the scientific basis of the health guidelines, questioned the authors’ credibility or how practical was it to apply those guidelines in a person’s own working environment.

Many individuals feared that the guidelines were impractical as their offices did not encourage healthy practices, instead they focused on productivity and would embargo frequent light exercise breaks.

Another more worrisome observation was that majority of the general public mistrusted public health officials and health guidelines as being biased or having mixed agenda or having financial interests such as increasing prices standing desks.

Other comments involved exchange of knowledge between different people as they tried to factually correct others, offering advice to better follow the guidelines and their own personal experiences of following the guidelines and sitting for long hours during worktime.

Lead author from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London Dr. Benjamin Gardner said, “Our study captured the views of website readers who were affected enough by news reports of the guidance to publicly respond to it.”

He further added that these comments may not be a good representation of the actual general public opinions but can give a basic idea about how they feel about the views of bosses and healthcare professionals.

Benjamin added that even little habits such as standing during meetings or standing while having a coffee break can significantly improve a person’s health.

Being informed about the viewpoints of the public is crucial as they can set the tone of future health guidelines and their success can depend on them. Therefore, in order to maximize the effectiveness of health policies; it is vital to understand the mindset of general audience and try to convey the guidelines in easy to understand language focusing on the audience’s level of understanding and minimizing any ambiguities.

Cardiovascular diseases are a big concern, especially for individuals who sit long hours a day. It has been estimated that individuals who work long hours sit, on average, for more than 10 hours-each day during work days.

It is not just the hours spent working that are harmful but the hours watching television or other activities that are tied to working are also harmful such as hours stuck in a car driving. Therefore, it is important to look at the bigger picture.

Even people who are physically active may also be at risk if they work out in a chunk of specified time, while most of their time is spent sitting for long consecutive hours.

However, the exact amount of hours spent sitting and impact of this time bracket is unknown. Nonetheless, countries such as Unites States, Finland and Australia have set limits to children’s TV viewing hours to two hours daily.

Adults may increase their health benefits if they participate in moderate intensity workouts while also reducing the time spent sitting. This isn’t as difficult as it may seem, since even frequent breaks from sitting such as standing up or walking to the water cooler can greatly reduce diabetes and cardiovascular disease risk.

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