sitting workplace wellness

Study: Better Communication Needed Around Dangers of Sitting

It seems the message of “move more, sit less” can’t be repeated enough in the office — or via well-run workplace wellness programs.

We’ve reported often on the topic, which is key to helping employees improve fitness and stay active.

For example, the study, titled “Work-related correlates of occupational sitting in a diverse sample of employees in Midwest metropolitan cities” and published in Preventive Medicine Reports was generated because, “The worksite serves as an ideal setting to reduce sedentary time. Yet little research has focused on occupational sitting, and few have considered factors beyond the personal or socio-demographic level. The current study i) examined variation in occupational sitting across different occupations, ii) explored whether worksite level factors (e.g., employer size, worksite supports and policies) may be associated with occupational sitting.”

Our post also noted that the report begins with important background on the dangers of sitting:

“Sedentary behaviors are linked to adverse health outcomes such as chronic disease risk factors, the development of chronic diseases, and mortality, possibly independent from levels of physical activity. Sedentary behavior is distinct from physical inactivity. For example, prolonged sitting (i.e., occupational sitting, watching TV) may exist among people who are physically active by engaging in sufficient recreational activity. Therefore, reducing prolonged sitting time and interrupting sitting time by active breaks is recommended even for adults who meet the recommended level of physical activity.”

Now a new study looks at how sitting is communicated in the popular media — which leaves much room for well-run workplace wellness programs to take the lead in communicating with employees.

The report, titled “Sitting ducks face chronic disease: an analysis of newspaper coverage of sedentary behaviour as a health issue in Australia 2000–2012,” was published by Health Promotion Journal of Australia: “This study examines how sedentary behaviour (too much sitting) was covered as a health issue by Australian newspapers and how physical activity was framed within this newspaper coverage.”

Some results showed that the negative components of sitting were reported:

  • “Out of 48 articles, prolonged sitting was framed as bad for health (52%) and specifically as health compromising for office workers (25%).”
  • “Adults who sat a lot were framed as ‘easy targets’ for ill health (21% of headlines led with ‘sitting ducks’ or ‘sitting targets’).”

But importantly, the ways in which collective action or norms played a role in too much sitting seemed vastly undercovered:

  • “Prolonged sitting was framed as an issue of individual responsibility (>90%) with less mention of environmental and sociocultural contributors.”
  • “Thirty-six of 48 articles mentioned physical activity; 39% stated that being physically active does not matter if a person sits for prolonged periods of time or that the benefits of physical activity are undone by too much sitting.”

Bottom line: “News coverage should reflect the full socio-ecological model of sedentary behaviour and continually reinforce the independent and well-established benefits of health-enhancing physical activity alongside the need to limit prolonged sitting. It is important that the entire ‘move more, sit less, every day!’ message is communicated by news media.”

Moreover, it would seem that well-run workplace wellness programs have even more reason to take up the issue with their members — because those members may not be getting sufficient information and context through the popular media.