A study involving 210 full-time office workers in the United Kingdom examined levels of sedentary and physical behaviors within and outside of daily working hours and found that most of the subjects spent between 60-68 percent of their working and non-working hours in sedentary postures. Workers spent 71 percent of each workday being sedentary. Workers who were more active during their workday were also more likely to be at least somewhat active during their non-working hours, and those who were less active during their workday were also less active after work. Because sedentary lifestyles lead to health problems, including obesity, cancer, musculoskeletal problems, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular events, and overall mortality, the results of this study indicate a need for innovations that would allow for more physical activity during the average workday.
Two hundred and ten male and female subjects between the ages of 18 and 65 years old were recruited for the study from businesses and a University in the Midland region of the United Kingdom. Each of the participants was a full-time administrative office worker with no physical illness or disability that would prohibit them from normal daily activity, and each stated that their typical daily work routine was highly sedentary in nature. Each subject was measured and weighed to determine their body mass index (BMI) prior to the start of the study. Their demographic information was recorded by research staff, and they were fitted with ActiGraph accelerometers and taught how to wear them during the seven-day monitoring period and asked to put them on at the beginning of each day and wear them until bedtime. At the end of the week, each participant returned their devices to the researchers and answered questions as to the consistency with which they wore the device during the study.
At the conclusion of the week, a statistical analysis was performed using IBM SPSS Statistics for Windows version 21. Time spent in various stages of physical activity and the relative proportion of time spent in each level of activity during working and non-working hours through the week, and during non-working hours on the weekend was measured, recorded, and analyzed.
Valid and usable data was obtained from 170 of the 210 subjects involved in the study. There was little difference between males and females when it came to the amount of sedentary and light activity during working and non-working hours on typical workdays, though males were much more prone to spend some time in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity than females. This was true equally for workdays and non-workdays. All participants spent more time in sedentary behaviors during workdays than during non-working hours. Sedentary behaviors on workdays (in, and out of work) represented approximately 57 percent of the subjects’ time.
During non-working hours, the data collected varied over the scope of grouped data sets. The group of participants who demonstrated the least amount of sedentary behavior at work spent less time in sedentary activities on non-work days and was more likely to be involved in some type of light-intensity physical activity than their study counterparts who were more sedentary at work. This was also true of non-working hours on typical work days—those who were more sedentary during work were also less likely to engage in physical activity after work. Though there was little variation in the BMI of all grouped participants, those who were less sedentary during working hours were more likely to be older than the participants who were moderately active or extremely sedentary at work. Overall, those who were less active during their working hours were also more likely to be sedentary after work and on the weekends.
In this study of full-time office workers in the United Kingdom, evidence was presented that those who are less active during their working hours will also be less active after work and on non-working days. The tendency for sedentary behavior at an office workplace can contribute to a habit of reduced physical activity during non-working hours and on non-work days that may be harmful to workers. Therefore, it would be beneficial to create opportunities during the workday for office workers to be more active—either during lunch or work breaks, or through innovations that would allow them to move their body while they are working. Providing some form of light-intensity activity during the workday would help reduce potentially harmful sedentary behaviors at the office and could, according to some studies, increase overall worker productivity and health. Suggestions for increasing worker physical activity opportunities might include workplace walking groups during the lunch hour or break time, adjustable desks that allow for standing during a portion of the day, relocating the water cooler or copier to the far end of a room so that workers would take more steps from their desks throughout the day—in short, anything that would promote movement in the workplace.
KEYWORDS: Sedentary Behavior During Working Hours, sedentary lifestyles lead to health problems, those who are less active during their working hours will also be less active after work and on non-working days, potentially harmful sedentary behaviors at the office, increasing worker physical activity opportunities, promote movement in the workplace