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Excessive occupational sitting is not a “safe system of work”: time for doctors to get chatting with patients

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Employers and doctors need to recognise and respond to the health hazards of too much sedentary time

Being able to work usually has a positive impact on health. However, changes in the physical demands of work and increased use of computers have led to many workers now being employed in sedentary jobs.1 While these have traditionally been thought of as safe work environments, recent evidence (including meta-analyses2) suggests this mode of work — often involving long uninterrupted periods of sitting — may be hazardous, contributing substantially to the growing chronic disease burden associated with obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.3,4 Importantly, being sedentary (ie, too much sitting) is not the same as being physically inactive. Insufficient physical activity is defined in the public health context as not meeting the guidelines to accumulate at least 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate-intensity physical activity per week.5 Both physical inactivity and sedentary time have an impact on health: physical inactivity is estimated to account for 5.5% of all-cause premature mortality, and excessive sitting time, after adjusting for physical activity, accounts for 5.9%.2 Notably, even if workers meet physical…