“We are sitting ourselves to death”
Tuesday, 02 April 2019
Health experts are not surprised about the risks linked to sedentary behaviour. In the US, treadmill desks are becoming more popular. In Germany however such inventions remain rather unknown. concept m research + consulting has surveyed 1,570 people on topics like health, exercise, and nutrition, and has probed into the findings with qualitative interviews. Manuela Ferdinand, Project Manager Quantitative, reports on the results.
“Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death“. The words of US professor James A. Levine have generated international hysteria over an everyday activity: sitting. Various studies have come to the same conclusion: sitting regularly and for long hours automatically increases the risk for diseases and may reduce life expectancy. The WHO classifies sitting as the fourth most common cause of preventable deaths.
An average adult person spends 50 to 70 per cent of their day sitting. White collar workers in particular often have no alternative other than sitting behind their desk. What we perceive as common and ordinary actually contradicts all insights from evolutionary biology: muscular strain plays a decisive role in developing and maintaining physical fitness – our spines are not made for sitting.
The sequelae of a sedentary lifestyle include a number of conditions, from muscular and skeletal damages, to migraines, depressions, to widespread diseases like diabetes or hypertension.
In the context of a study, concept m research + consulting has surveyed a sample of 1,570 people in Germany on health, exercise, and nutrition. Qualitative interviews helped probe into the findings. Fifty per cent of all respondents said they have a sedentary job without physically demanding tasks.
Manuela Ferdinand is an I/O psycholgost (M.Sc.). She studied business administration and I/O psychology with a focus on organisational development and change management. She has worked in international sales and supply management for several years. She joined concept m in November 2017 as a project manager at concept m, specialised in pharmaceutical and health studies. She is currently undergoing extra occupational vocational training to become a systemic therapist.
Comparing physical work load and the respondents’ evaluation of their own health, it is striking that the subjects who spend most of their time sitting, without significant physical effort, believe they enjoy good to excellent health. The other groups are at a similar level among each other. Especially respondents who work in jobs putting a great strain on their bodies often report to suffer from hypertension or chronic joint diseases.
At first glance, these results seem to contradict the hypothesis of a “sedentary society”. But when you dig deeper, they corroborate it. Evidently, physically demanding jobs go hand in hand with a direct physical load to the body. Every kind of overstrain is detrimental and affects physical well-being. In the industries concerned, people suffer from health problems directly during of right after the strain. Two examples often portrayed in the media in this context are roofers or tilers.
Desk jobs, where most of the work is done sitting, seem less dangerous at first. But many people are unaware of the hidden risks like long-term repercussions and chronic diseases that might manifest themselves in the future. White collar workers are more frequently affected by psychological health issues, which they are often afraid to address directly out of shame.
These facts make it all the more important to educate people about the negative consequences of long hours of sitting and to take preventive measures, like integrating movement into breaks at the office or introducing stand-up desks to the workplace. Many US companies already offer their employees treadmill desks. While these innovations are not very widespread in Germany yet, it will become ever more crucial for businesses to safeguard their staff’s health in order to gain and retain the best talents.
Hamilton, M. T., Healy, G. N., Dunstan, D. W., Zderic, T. H., & Owen, N. (2008). Too little exercise and too much sitting: Inactivity physiology and the need for new recommendations on sedentary behavior. Current Cardiovascular Risk Reports, 2(4), 292–298.
Levine, J.A. (2015), Sick of sitting. Diabetologia, pp.1-8
Raether, T. (2013), Rührt euch! in: Süddeutsche Zeitung, Heft 39.
Scholz A. (2016) Förderung der Gesundheit durch mehr Bewegung im Arbeitsalltag. In: Ghadiri A., Ternès A., Peters T. (eds) Trends im Betrieblichen Gesundheitsmanagement. Springer Gabler, Wiesbaden
Image: © pixabay
You want to find out more? Please get in touch: