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University of Leicester experts urge Britain to get on its feet

To mark On Your Feet Britain Day, researchers at the University of Leicester are urging workers across the country to take part in the SMART Work programme, following a stark reminder of the very real risks of sitting too much.

The SMART Work programme is a free, evidenced-based resource kit to help employees sit less and move more throughout the working day.

Based on ground-breaking research that outlines the risks of sitting and the work-related benefits of sitting less during work, the SMART Work programme is especially important following the wide-spread adoption of working from home. The change in working habits has resulted in increased sitting time, which could have a significant impact on people’s health.

“In a survey we conducted during lockdown, working from home had led to an increase in sitting time, less time standing and an increase in musculoskeletal issues across all areas of the body“ said Dr Charlotte Edwardson, a leading researcher on sedentary behaviour at the University of Leicester.

Recent research co-authored by Dr Edwardson and Professor Yates found that the likelihood of dying early increases gradually when spending 7.5 to 9 hours per day sitting, with the threat increasing more steeply after 9.5 hours of sitting per day.

Those spending 12 hours per day sitting down had nearly three times the chance of dying early when compared to those who spend 7.5 hours per day or less sitting down.

Dr Edwardson stated that people who sit a lot need anywhere between 30 to 75 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day to mitigate the risk of high sitting time.

“We know that many people cannot fit this level of physical activity into their daily lives, but what we can do is break up long bouts of sitting with light activity, such as standing during work meetings or phone calls, walking around the office or house or doing simple arm exercises or calf raises,” she said.

The SMART Work programme provides a free, easy to follow resource kit which includes an interactive online education session on the consequences of sitting too much, gives individuals tools to estimate their sitting time and prompts people to get out of their chair more regularly.

The SMART Work programme even includes business cases for managers to pass on to upper management that demonstrate how it improves other aspects of working life, such as work engagement, job performance, and sickness presenteeism.

“A cost-benefit analysis of SMART Work showed a potential return on investment of £3 on every £1 spent as a result of increased productivity of 1.75 hours per week, which results in a net saving of £1,770.32 per employee,” Dr Edwardson said.

“This means that not only will employers see happier, healthier employees if they join SMART Work, they will also see a net saving if they roll it out across their organisation,” she said.

To date, staff from 255 Organisations across the globe have signed up to SMART Work and Dr Edwardson hopes that more organisations will sign up to bring about widespread cultural and workplace policy changes that promote less sitting.

“It is critical that we educate as many people as we can to try and break our bad habit of prolonged sitting. SMART Work not only educates, it motivates people to incorporate regular breaks from sitting whilst they are working,” Dr Edwardson said. 

If you spend too much time sitting and want to do something about it? Or are you an employer who wants to encourage their workforce to sit less to improve their health and wellbeing? You can find out more and sign up to access the SMART Workprogramme at www.smartworkandlife.co.uk

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