Office Workers Must Exercise an Hour a Day to Offset Health Risk

A new study on inactivity published in  The Lancet  keeps the alarm sounding for anyone who spends large periods of time behind a desk.

The study included over one million people mostly aged over 45, from Europe, Australia and the US.  Participants were classed by their levels of physical activity – from up to five minutes a day to more than an hour – and by the amount of time spent seated. This was then compared with death rates among participants over an 18 year period.

Among those who sat for at least eight hours daily and managed less than five minutes’ activity death rates were 50 per cent greater than those who spent just as long seated, but managed at least an hours exercise.

Cancer and heart disease were the two most likely causes of death linked to inactivity.

Researchers found that globally, more than 5 million deaths a year are linked to physical inactivity – a similar number to lives lost to smoking, and a higher figure than that caused by obesity.


The researchers urged anyone spending hours at their desk to change their daily routine to take a five minute break every hour, as well as exercise at lunchtimes and evenings.

The study found that at least one hour of physical activity per day, for example brisk walking or bike cycling, eliminates the association between sitting time and death.

For ideas to increase the amount of physical activity in your work day, please refer to our Get Active at Work Guide.