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Perils of sitting down

Finish researcher Arto Pesola states that making sitting down at work less popular would have a beneficial effect on national health. The revolution of using small, everyday choices for improving your health requires changes at the workplace as well.


The right kind of lifestyle guidance can help reduce the health disadvantages of sitting down, but it is even more crucial to make decisive changes to the underlying structures of people’s working life.


During their research Arto Pesola and his colleagues examined the activeness of 48 people on normal working days. Some of the subjects were asked to avoid sitting down, and to increase their activeness during the day. The rest of the subjects served as the control group.


The subjects were able to decrease sitting down by half an hour, and to increase the amount of light physical tasks by 20 minutes. Based on earlier studies, this can be expected to have a positive impact on the carbohydrate metabolism. It is, however, too early to say whether it can prevent disease.


The disadvantages of sitting down are studied in various institutes around the world. And it is no wonder, as the World Health Organization WHO has identified immobility the fourth biggest risk factor for premature death.

What type of a problem is this “epidemic of immobility” all about, then?


Muscles inactive for 80 percent of the day


Studies suggest that office workers’ muscles are inactive about 80 percent of the time spent at work and 60 percent of their free time. When the subjects were asked to increase their activeness, they were best able to do so on their free time, and not so well at work. In other words, it was hard for them to do so precisely where it is most needed. Should we conclude, then, that the bottleneck of active lifestyle can be found at the workplace? Even though we now have more free time and we exercise more than ever before, our working habits have become more and more passive. “As a matter of fact, the amount of energy consumed at the workplace has decreased for both men and women during the last 30 years exactly the same amount as the people’s weight gain has required. The muscle activity of an average office worker equals to that of a monkey in a cage.”


Even though it is recommended to keep yourself fit, it can never compensate for immobility at work or during your free time. This can be seen in Finnish statistics: Based on surveys, the number of Finnish people exercising at least two times a week has grown from 40 percent to 70 percent during the last 30 years. And we are getting fatter nevertheless.

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