Valérie Fernandez

By Valérie Fernandez

August 12, 2016


Working While Seated: Worse Than Smoking?

Article revised on 12 March 2018

We all know it. A lack of physical activity can have serious implications when it comes to our health. It increases the risk of certain types of cancers – such as colon cancer for example – or high blood pressure, increases all causes of mortality, and doubles the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and obesity.

The World Health Organization went so far as to issue a warning stating that “a sedentary lifestyle could very well be among the 10 leading causes of death and disability in the world.”¹ 

Unfortunately, today we are often constrained to be in a seated position and as a result, remain sedentary for long periods of time at work, at home, in our cars, etc. The seated position has been criticized by many researchers and another study that was recently published² once again confirms its harmful effects.

Researchers found that people who remain seated for more than eight hours a day, and do not engage in any physical activity³, increase the risk of mortality by 60%. That’s comparable to the risk linked to smoking and obesity!

They therefore sought solutions to eliminate the detrimental effects of prolonged sitting and arrived at the following conclusion: One hour or more of moderate physical activity a day could eliminate the risks associated to prolonged sitting.

What role does my employer play with regard to my health?

It’s true that employees are responsible for staying active and eating well, but I’m here to tell you that the employer also has a responsibility to maintain the health of its staff members.

Many initiatives can be put in place allowing the staff to be physically active. I recently implemented “walking meetings” for members of my team. The idea is simple: The meeting is held as we walk, not in an office or meeting room. I’ve even noticed a spike in creativity among members of my team.

Here are a few other initiatives that can be implemented by the company:

  • Offer adjustable and ergonomic workstations to employees so they can work standing up
  • Provide exercise balls instead of chairs to promote an active seated position
  • Make stairs more visible to employees so they can be tempted to use them over elevators
  • Inform staff members of the health risks associated to prolonged sitting
  • Encourage employees to stand up and move around throughout the day

What is my insurer’s role regarding my health?

I already know what you’re thinking: Why would my insurer care about the way I sit at work?

If you’re idle, you’re more likely to develop a chronic health condition and you will have to take more medication. Then, your plan will be more expensive for you and your colleagues.

Not to mention all the other costs your health can impose on the employer: absenteeism and presenteeism, loss of motivation, decrease in productivity, etc.

Lastly, take the time to read your colleague Stéphanie Chrétien’s blog article, in which she provides a few tricks to help you move around more at work:

It’s time to get up and move!
3 For example walking 5.5 km/h or bicycling at 16 km/h.

The Viva Workplace health and wellness program is a turnkey program that’s specially designed to meet employers’ needs with regard to health and wellness promotion and prevention.

Visit our website

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