Standing desks now have a tick of approval from new health authority recommendations

An office worker works at a desk suspended from the outside of a building in London. Ian Gavan/Getty Images for O2

Health authorities in the UK have for the first time issued guidelines on how long and when office workers should be standing during their day.

A report in the the British Journal of Sports Medicine says those who work in offices should be on their feet for a minimum of two hours a day.

Prolonged periods of sitting should be broken up with the use of sit-stand desks, standing based work and regular walk-abouts.

The guidance was drawn up by a panel of international experts on behalf of Public Health England and a UK community interest company, Active Working CIC.

“For those working in offices, 65-75% of their working hours are spent sitting, of which more than 50% of this is accumulated in prolonged periods of sustained sitting,” the report authors write.

“The evidence is clearly emerging that a first behavioural step could be simply to get people standing and moving more frequently as part of their working day.”

The guidance report recommends:

  • Two hours daily of standing and light activity (light walking) during working hours, eventually progressing to a total of 4 hours for all office workers whose jobs are predominantly desk based
  • Regularly breaking up seat-based work with standing based work using an adjustable sit-stand desks/work stations
  • Avoiding prolonged static standing which may be as harmful as prolonged sitting
  • Altering posture/light walking to alleviate possible musculoskeletal pain and fatigue as part of the adaptive process
  • As well as encouraging staff to embrace other healthy behaviours, such as cutting down on drinking and smoking, eating a nutritious diet, and alleviating stress, employers should also warn about the potential dangers of too much time spent sitting down either at work or at home

The authors acknowledge that much of the evidence they draw on for their recommendations is based on observational and retrospective studies which make it difficult to prove direct cause and effect.

“While longer term intervention studies are required, the level of consistent evidence accumulated to date, and the public health context of rising chronic diseases, suggest initial guidelines are justified,” the authors write.

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