Sedentary society: UK workers spend nine hours a day sitting down

British workers spend nine hours a day sitting down – the equivalent of a UK flight to the Caribbean – taking into consideration commuting, time at desk and leisure time.

Brits who sit for some or most of their working day are piling up an average daily sit-time of nine hours, according to new research into people’s sedentary habits from AXA PPP healthcare.

The poll of 2000 workers finds that, while nearly half (46 per cent) sit at work for 4 to 6 hours per day, one in four (25 per cent) notch up seven to eight hours daily. Sitting eats into people’s travel time too, with 29 per cent seat-bound for up to half an hour as a part of their daily commute to and from work and 27 per cent occupying a travel-time seat for 30 to 60 minutes. Seventeen per cent say their seated commuting time takes one to two hours.

But the chair necessities don’t stop there – in addition to their work and commuting, half (50 per cent) are seated two to three hours per day during their leisure and home time. For almost a third (31 per cent), the figure is four to six hours.

A worrying finding turned up by the survey is workers’ seeming satisfaction with their sedentary situation at work, with half (51 per cent) saying they’re ‘okay’ with the amount of time they spend sitting and a third (33 per cent) being ‘happy’ with it.

This is despite nearly three quarters (73 per cent) of respondents having experienced musculoskeletal problems such as back, neck and shoulder pain. It’s therefore hardly surprising that inertia prevails when it comes to countering health risks associated with prolonged sitting (as well as musculoskeletal problems they include heart disease and type 2 diabetes).

Indeed, only a little more than a third of employees (36 per cent) try to do something about it by getting out of their work seats to frequently move around.

Jan Vickery, head of musculoskeletal services for AXA PPP healthcare, comments, ‘We cannot escape from the fact that many of us do much of our day-to-day business on our bottoms. To help bring this home, this nine-hour sit-time is tantamount to a UK flight to the Caribbean and, while it’s encouraging that some are taking steps to lower the risks associated with prolonged sitting, it’s a concern that, for others, this seems to be a low priority.

‘To make matters worse, sedentary home and leisure patterns may further increase our susceptibility to chronic health problems.’

Vickery concludes, ‘For the sake of our health we need to break the sedentary cycle. Employees – and their employers – should be aware that adopting and developing better habits can make a big difference.

‘Making a point of getting up and about every half hour – whether to speak with a colleague or just to stretch your legs – should help you to feel more energised and productive. Perhaps it’s time to give that old exhortation ‘Bottoms up’ a new lease of life to remind ourselves to get up and off our chairs more often.’

Further reading on sedentary sitting and employee health

Owen Gough, SmallBusiness UK

Freddie Halvorson

Owen was a reporter for Bonhill Group plc writing across the and titles before moving on to be a Digital Technology reporter for the

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Employee wellbeing