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Sitting is a Deadly Habit That is Killing Your Employees

Prolonged sitting at work puts us at risk for lower performance and multiple chronic diseases
August 8th, 2017

Are you one of the 325 million Americans who sit for a majority of your day at work? If the answer is yes, then read on to find out why you need to change this habit now!

It is imperative to your health to change your habits at work

The amount of prolonged occupational sitting needs to be recognized as a silent killer of working adults. The reason is health professionals have become more interested in

The reason is, health professionals have become more interested in sedentary activity. They believe sitting is a potential independent risk factor for some adverse health outcomes.

Sitting even for at least four hours during the day has been shown to increase mortality and morbidity.1 Even more compelling is those of us who are physically active may (at best) only lessen some of the health risks.2

Sedentary activity is hurting our health and wealth

It has become more challenging to create an active lifestyle for working adults largely due to advanced technologies and industrial innovations.

Not only that, if you spend a majority of the workday sitting, you are more likely to spend a significant amount of time sitting outside of work and on non-workdays as well.

  • 80,000 hours is the estimated time the average office-based worker spends sitting throughout their working career;
  • Roughly 77% of an office worker’s day is spent sitting.
  • 70% of the entire work day (before, during, and after work) is spent being inactive;
  • 62% of non-work days are spent being inactive.4

Unfortunately, the general population is not much better.

According to the Center for Disease Control, less than 20% of all Americans achieve the recommended levels of exercise, which is 150-minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity every week. This includes two days of total body resistance training.

Even more concerning is more than 1 in 4 U.S. adults does not devote any time to being physically activity.5

It’s evident office work is a significant contributor to sedentary behavior leading to poorer health outcomes and reduced productivity.6

We say this confidently. The current evidence is overwhelming, with over 10,000 publications showing that sitting is harmful to overall health.

You’re at risk for chronic disease when you sit all the time

Despite being physically active, if you sit all day you are at higher risk for obesity, increased waist circumference, and multiple chronic diseases.7-8

Body Fat

Furthermore, higher percentages of body fat create financial burdens. In fact, overweight and obese employees have increased medical costs, increased absenteeism, decreased productivity, and higher workers’ compensation claims compared to employees with healthy weights.9-13

Blood Pressure

Additionally, blood pressure is also affected by sedentary behaviors. This is concerning since one in three adults in the US have hypertension.14 Employees suffering from hypertension are at a much higher risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and stroke.

Employees suffering from hypertension are at a much higher risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and stroke.

Recent research suggests there is a strong association between sedentary behaviors and elevated blood pressure with increased sedentary time in the day directly associated with a greater risk of hypertension.15 Consequently, hypertensive employees not only have higher costs for medical

Consequently, hypertensive employees not only have higher costs for medical care but also have higher absenteeism rates and contribute to lost productivity compared to normotensive employees.16-17


Similarly, people who are sedentary are likely to have much higher blood glucose levels, and high glucose levels over time can cause diabetes and cardiovascular disease.18

Given the above, it’s time to start making changes to your daily routine.

Simple changes make a huge difference

We know workplace culture contributes to employee health, profitability, and sustainability. Therefore, it is crucial for you to understand that an employees’ work behavior influences overall performance and bottom line of your organization.

Therefore, it is crucial for you to understand that an employees’ work behavior influences overall performance and bottom line of your organization.

While creating a healthy work culture should be a priority among managers, HR, and the C-suite, we must embrace that healthy employees are essential to the overall success of the company.

Given that a majority of an employees’ time, both at work and during non-working hours, is spent in either sedentary or very light activity, employers ought to consider initiatives to promote increased physical activity.

Employers should consider strategies such as:

  • Encouraging employees who sit for extended periods to get up, move, and stretch
  • Promoting active or walking meetings
  • Provide standing or treadmill desks
  • Inspiring employees to take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Prompts at key locations to encourage being physically active
  • Offering work-site fitness classes
  • Where feasible, providing an area for employees to use selected pieces of equipment to exercise during breaks
  • Offering discounts or subsidies for fitness-club memberships

Specifically, we all need to start thinking about how to incorporate more movement into day-to-day routines.

For employees, sitting back and doing nothing can (and will) impact long-term health and happiness.

This is because sitting for extended periods of time promotes dozens of chronic diseases, including obesity, blood sugar dysregulation leading to type 2 diabetes, and abnormal cholesterol levels.

Regardless of exercise routines, these issues are related to inflammation and cardiovascular problems.

For employers, not promoting employee physical activity throughout the day will increase direct (medical and pharmacy) and indirect (absenteeism and presenteeism) costs, impacting the bottom line.


In conclusion – Get up and get moving!

  1. Hamilton, M.T., Hamilton, D.G., & Zderic, T.W. (2007). Role of low energy expenditure and sitting in obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Diabetes, 56(11).
  2. Biswas, A., Oh, P.I., Faulkner, G.E., Bajaj, R.R., Silver, M.A. Mitchell, M.S. et al. (2015). Sedentary time and its association with risk for disease incidence, mortality, and hospitalization in adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Annals of Internal Medicine, 162(2), 123-32.
  3. AHA. (2015). The price of inactivity. American Heart Association. Retrieved from
  4. Thorp, A., Dunstan, D.W., Clark, B., Gardiner, P., Healy, G., Keegel, T. et al. (2009). Stand up Australia: Sedentary behaviour in workers. Medibank Private Limited. Retrieved from
  5. National Center for Health Statistics. (2015). Health, United States, 2014: With special feature on Adults aged 55-64. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hyattsville, MD. Retrieved from
  6. Parry, S. & Straker, L. (2013). The contribution of office work to sedentary behavior associated risk. BMC Public Health, 13(296).
  7. Shields, M. & Tremblay, M.S. (2008). Sedentary behavior and obesity. Health Reports, 19(2), 19- 30.
  8. Heinonen, I., Helajarvi, H., Pahkala, K., Heinonen, O.J., Hirvensalo, M., Palve, K. et al. (2013). Sedentary behaviours and obesity in adults: The Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study. BMJ Open, 3.
  9. Tsai, A.G., Williamson, D.F. & Glick, H.A. (2007). Direct medical cost of overweight and obesity in the United States: A quantitative systematic review. Obesity Reviews, 12(1), 50-61.
  10. Ostbye, T., Dement J.M. & Krause, K.M. (2007). Obesity and workers' compensation: Results from the Duke Health and Safety Surveillance System. Archives of Internal Medicine, 167(8), 766- 73.
  11. Harvey, S.B., Glozier, N., Carleton, O.I., Mykletun, A., Henderson, M., Hotopf, M., et al. (2010). Obesity and sickness absence: Results from the CHAP study. Occupational Medicine, 60(5), 362- 368.
  12. Gates, D., Succop, P., Brehm, B., Gillespie, G.L. & Sommers, B.D. (2008). Obesity and presenteeism: The impact of body mass index on workplace productivity. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 50(1), 39-45.
  13. Pronk, N.P., Martinson, B., Kessler, R.C., Beck, A.L., Simon, G.E. & Wang, P. (2004). The association between work performance and physical activity, cardiorespiratory fitness, and obesity. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 46(1), 19-25.
  14. National Center for Health Statistics. (2015). Health, United States, 2014: With special feature on adults aged 55-64. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Hyattsville, MD.
  15. Beunza, J.J, Martinez-Gonzalez, M.A., Ebrahim, S., Bes-Rastrollo, M., Nunez, J., Martinez, J.A. et al. (2007). Sedentary behavior and the risk of incident hypertension. American Journal of Hypertension, 20, 1156-62.
  16. Goetzel, R.Z., Long, S.R., Ozminkowski, R.J., Hawkins, K., Wang, S. & Lynch, W. (2004). Health, absence, disability, and presenteeism cost estimates of certain physical and mental health conditions affecting U.S. employers. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 46(4), 398-412.
  17. Wang, P.S., Beck, A., Berglund, P., Leutzinger, J.A., Pronk, N., Richling, D. et al. (2003). Chronic medical conditions and work performance in the health and work performance questionnaire calibration surveys. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 45(12), 1303-11.
  18. Edwardson CL, Henson J, Bodicoat DH, et al. (2016). Associations of reallocating sitting time into standing or stepping with glucose, insulin and insulin sensitivity: a cross-sectional analysis of adults at risk of type 2 diabetes. BMJ Open, 7(10), 014267.
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