If you think of dangerous jobs, chances are things like mining, skyscraper construction, and fighting fires may come to mind. However, a team of international experts found that working on a computer in an office all day can be just as deadly as smoking.
Given the nature of our work environments, there is often not much we can do to improve the situation. Many people don’t have any other choice than to sit still and stare at a screen for 8 hours a day. On top of that, most of us come home after work and watch television. This, again, while sitting on a chair or couch.
A desk job is the new smoking
As recently reported by The Telegraph, sitting for at least eight hours a day could increase the risk of premature death by up to 60 percent.
The BBC has also recently reported that more than 5 million deaths a year are linked to sedentary lifestyles. In our technology-dominated world, it seems that a desk job is rapidly becoming the new smoking, as similar numbers of lives lost are reported. An inactive lifestyle is causing even more deaths than obesity.
As sad as this may sound, these scientists also found a solution to the problem. A minimum of one hour of any physical activity a day could eliminate the deadly risks associated with a desk-bound lifestyle.
One hour of exercise a day saves lives
The authors of the study analyzed data from over 1 million people, mostly aged over 45, from 16 previous studies. The study participants, who came from western Europe, Australia, and the U.S., were grouped by their level of activity and the amount of time spent seated.
For those who sat for eight or more hours a day and engaged in less than five minutes of activity per day, mortality rates were 9.9 percent, compared to 6.2 percent for those who managed to incorporate at least an hour’s exercise into their busy schedule.
They also found that watching television for more than 3 hours a day was associated with an increased risk of death in all groups except those who exercised for at least one hour a day.
According to lead scientist Professor Ulf Ekelund, from Cambridge University and the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences, there is no need to go to the gym. Brisk walking or cycling, as long as it is done for at least one hour, is good enough to eliminate the risk associated with a desk job. And you can split it up over the day, too.
Professor Ekelund says that workers should do everything they can to find time to get some movement in their life. He recommends people to build up physical activity in their everyday life by taking five-minute breaks every hour. During these five minutes, walk to the next office, go to the upstairs coffee machine or walk to the printer. Take the stairs instead of the lift and try to get on your feet as much as possible.
And while on your coffee break, you could also try opting for a refreshing, organic cold brew coffee instead. It is refreshing, less acidic, and much healthier than the regular hot brew coffee coming from the office vending machine.
In addition, employers should make it easier for their workers to exercise by providing showers and free gym memberships, and encouraging longer breaks. Furthermore, they could enroll in Cycle to Work plans to let employers loan out bicycles as a tax-free benefit.
“This report is showing that inactivity kills,” said Steven Ward, executive editor of UK Active. “When we realised this about smoking we tackled it – we need to do the same about our office culture.”
- Move it, shake it: Increasing physical activity is linked to longevity regardless of intensity
- Study suggests TV watching lowers physical activity (press release)
- Twice as many deaths are caused by physical inactivity compared to obesity, stunning study finds
- Most Dangerous Lifestyle Activity Uncovered in New Epigenetic Mortality Risk Profile