Sedentary office lifestyles are as great a risk to health as smoking

Francesca Washtell
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Sitting down all day is as harmful for you as smoking, the Lancet study found (Source: Getty)

If you've already been sat down at your desk for an hour already today, you might want to get up and take a five minute walk around the office.

A major new study from medical journal the Lancet has found sitting in front of a computer for eight hours a day can increase your risk of premature death by 60 per cent.

Non-active lifestyles were branded as great a threat to public health as smoking and were said to have caused more deaths than obesity.

In a meta-analysis of 16 studies that researched more than one million adults, the authors found high levels of "moderate intensity physical activity" of between 60 and 75 minutes a day "seem to eliminate the increased risk of death associated with high sitting time".

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This time could be spread over the day, rather than concentrated in gym or fitness sessions.

"Take a five minute break every hour, go to the next office, go upstairs to the coffee machine, go to the printer," the study's lead author Professor Ekelund said, encouraging people to "build physical activity in your everyday life".

However, the authors added that an increased activity level attenuates but does not entirely eliminate the health risks associated with a highly sedentary lifestyle, in which workers are often sat at their desks all day and go home to sit down to watch TV or use laptops and other devices for most of the evening.

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Businesses could be set to benefit from encouraging their employees to be more active, Betsey Banker, wellness manager at office supply store Ergotron, has said.

"The impact on the human body from prolonged sitting has been well documented," said Banker.

" According to Public Health England, prolonged sedentary working impacts the wellbeing of employees, irrespective of their personal level of physical fitness. This latest study underlines the need for employers to acknowledge the role that sedentary workstyles and work practices have on health, and take bold actions to protect future enterprise productivity and performance.

"Employers that take a stand on the issue of sedentary workplace behaviours are likely to reap multiple benefits: enhanced workforce productivity, reduced absenteeism, and the ability to attract and retain talented human capital."

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Meanwhile, in other research, a healthy diet has been linked to a 17 per cent increase in concentration.

Britons struggle to concentrate on their job for longer than 40 minutes in a sitting, a study of more than 2,000 workers by British Summer Fruits found.

However, those who considered themselves to be "very healthy eaters" could concentrate for 17 per cent longer, at nearly 56 minutes at a time on average.

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