Office workers who spend most of the day seated are more
likely to suffer from chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes
and heart disease, research suggests.
The findings of the Australian study are likely to be
reflected in New Zealand, which has similar rates of chronic
disease, according to a public health expert here.
Researchers from the University of Western Sydney's School of
Science and Health surveyed more than 63,000 Australian men
aged 45-64 on their daily sitting time.
They compared the rates of chronic disease among participants
who sat for less than four hours, four to six hours, six to
eight hours, and more than eight hours.
Researcher Emma George said people who spent more time seated
were much more likely to report serious health conditions -
including diabetes, cancer, heart disease and high blood
pressure - compared with those who were seated for less than
"The rates of chronic diseases reported by the participants
exponentially increased in proportion with the amount of time
the participants spent sitting down."
The researchers said the study, which was published in the
International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical
Activity, was highly relevant to office workers and others
whose job requires them to sit down for long periods of time,
such as truck drivers.
Public health expert Professor Grant Schofield, the director
of AUT's human potential centre, said he expected similar
findings in New Zealand.
The centre has collected data from more than 10,000 people as
part of its Wellbeing Index project - and researchers are
hoping to analyse how much time New Zealanders spend seated
within the next few months.
Dr Schofield said sitting had an impact on health, regardless
of how much people exercised, because sitting for a long time
activated an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase, which
encouraged cells to store extra energy as fat.
"It's only really recently that humans have taken up marathon
sitting, and marathon anything is likely to be bad for you,"
"Humans just weren't made to sit around through their whole
That was reflected in the Australian research, which found
the amount of sitting time was significantly associated with
chronic disease, independent of factors like physical
activity, age and weight.
Dr Schofield said exercise was good for energy expenditure
but it also required willpower, which could be "pretty
"Even a half-hour run, compared to the amount of energy that
you'd use up over a day where you're moving around as part of
your job, is incidental," he said.
"We're concentrating on exercise, which is great, but there's
more to it than we thought."
Dr Schofield said standing at work had benefits, so reshaping
the office environment could help tackle the problem.
"Contrary to just tiring you out, it actually energises you a
bit more. You can actually buy desks which are highly
adjustable - it just doesn't have to be that hard."