Working at a desk for too long linked to diabetes and cancer

WHILE office jobs traditionally have been considered safe working environments, doctors are now suggesting those parked in front of computer screens for long periods face serious health hazards.

This mode of work - leaving people sitting for long uninterrupted periods - could be contributing substantially to the growing increase in obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancers

Curtin University physiotherapy professor Leon Straker, based in Perth, and co-authors wrote in the Medical Journal of Australia, due out today(Monday), that doctors should prescribe behaviour changes to combat sedentary working conditions.

"A doctor who is aware that a patient has a prolapsed disc in the spine would require the patient to refrain from lifting heavy objects at work," Mr Straker said.

"In the same way, a doctor who is aware that a patient's cardiovascular condition necessitates remaining active and avoiding excessive sedentary exposure should inform the patient and employer of the need for the patient to regularly move to maintain wellbeing.

The writers said Australia's work health and safety laws required employers to provide a "safe system of work".

"Contemporary offices may be failing to provide a safe system of work," they wrote.

"On average, over 75% of the office workday is spent sitting, with much of this accumulated in unbroken bouts of at least 30 minutes.

"There is now also evidence that both overall sedentary time and the pattern of sedentary exposure are associated with substantial harm."

They suggested employers introduce sit-stand workstations, active workstations and introducing standing meetings to help staff move more.

Topics:  cancer diabetes health

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