Men’s health is put at risk from sedentary office jobs, new study shows

ireland
Men’s Health Is Put At Risk From Sedentary Office Jobs, New Study Shows Men’s Health Is Put At Risk From Sedentary Office Jobs, New Study Shows
Research point out that on average, per day, we spend more than seven hours being sedentary. Photo: ED JONES/AFP via Getty Images.
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Sarah Slater

Men suffer more health problems from sedentary office jobs, a new study shows.

This lifestyle is associated with many long-term adverse health conditions. Sedentary behaviour (SB) has indicated that longer time spent being sedentary is associated with all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease mortality, and type 2 diabetes.

Now researchers at Trinity College Dublin’s Institute of Population Health have assessed the acceptability and feasibility of a gender-sensitive multicomponent intervention or cycling while at their desks, to reduce occupational sedentary behaviour by increasing physical activity in professional men.

The findings, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, show that overall, sedentary behaviour was reduced by 47 minutes in a full day.

The research team recruited 22 office-based employees from two professional worksites in Dublin with an average age of 43, who were each provided with a Garmin watch and the associated web-based/smartphone application, Garmin Connect.

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An under-desk pedal machine was also provided for the duration of the intervention. Managers were recruited to provide support to the employees.

Changing behaviours

Overall the study findings show that participants found that the intervention was acceptable, feasible and enjoyable, despite some problems with setting up the under-desk pedal machines.

The intervention reduced daily workplace SB by 27 minutes, 67 per cent of participants engaged in more than 20 minutes of pedalling per day, which equated to more than 60 per cent of the intervention pedalling goal.

The social group influence was important in terms of changing normative behaviours while managers described a positive impact on the social environment and communicative aspects of work as a result of the intervention components.

The findings of this study provide insight into the challenges and opportunities associated with the workplace, but the intervention should be further tested in a larger randomised controlled trial. This could provide practical, real-world solutions to improve population health.

Health risks

Research point out that on average, per day, we spend more than seven hours being sedentary, and for most adults, sedentary behaviour mainly occurs in the office workplace.

This behaviour puts our health at risk, and the evidence shows that sedentary behaviour is associated with the development of cardiovascular disease and cancers and may lead to a higher risk of death.

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In particular, workplace sitting appears to be associated with a higher risk of developing pancreatic, lung and breast cancers.

Gail Nicolson, from the School of Medicine, Trinity College and lead author said: “The Cycle at Work intervention has the potential to change workers’ behaviour by increasing light physical activity.

“This study should now be expanded to include different occupations and settings and should prioritise those who are least active. Future studies should also look at how well this novel intervention would reduce sedentary behaviour in women.”

Ms Nicolson added: “Given that the typical workplace is highly sedentary in nature, and that employees and organisations have the authority to implement their own policies, the Cycle at Work intervention has the potential to effect real change.

“This multicomponent intervention could be offered to both employers and employees as part of a wider culture of wellness”.

The study points out that workplace interventions may be important strategies in our efforts to reduce sedentary behaviour and increase physical activity in those who are most at risk.

Multiple short bouts of physical activity (rather than long exercise sessions) are likely to be practical and acceptable in the workplace, and evidence suggests that these short sharp bouts of exercise may actually benefit us more.

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