LONDON – Workers should stand at their desks for at least an hour a day to prevent obesity and heart disease, according to a top public health expert.
Professor Kevin Fenton warned that spending six or seven hours a day sat down in the office was having a detrimental effect on their health.
Instead he said they should break up the time by holding stand-up meetings, coffees or lunches or set aside a certain amount of time to work standing up.
He said being active is the ‘miracle cure we’ve been waiting for’ to reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and improving mental health.
Professor Fenton, the national director for Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England, the body in charge of improving our health, also urged workers to donate money to charity every time they took the lift rather than the stairs.
NHS figures show that more than 40 per cent of women and a third of men do not complete the recommended 30 minutes of exercise five times a week.
This includes a quarter of women and a third of men who are classed as inactive, meaning they do less than 30 minutes exercise on a weekly basis.
Harvard academics have claimed that sitting down for too long is as bad for our health as tobacco because it is directly responsible for more deaths worldwide.
Professor Fenton, said: ‘Globally we’ve become more and more inactive, in part because our jobs are making us more sedentary.
‘We spend too much time sitting down at our computers.
‘I don’t think people understand that physical activity is the miracle cure we’ve been waiting for.
‘This is in terms of helping us manage our weight, reducing our risk of cancers, reducing our risk of heart disease and increasing our mental health and wellbeing.
‘Sitting is a problem. Some authors say sitting is the new tobacco, I wouldn’t go that far as it isn’t addictive.
‘But we’re too immobile.
‘Standing has benefits for improving your posture and therefore back pain, it improves your circulation and therefore cardiovascular health and it also promotes greater mobility in general.
‘If you are standing you are likely to be moving around a little bit more.
‘There’s no minimum time for standing but it’s about being mindful about not sitting down for six or seven hours a day.’
Standing-up increases the heart rate by about ten beats a minute, which in turn burns an extra 0.7 calories a minute, or 50 an hour.
Professor Fenton said that by standing at their desks, office workers would be inclined to move about more and take the stairs rather than lift.
Going up a typical flight of stairs burns two or three extra calories, which soon adds up if done many times a day.
In October, Public Health England will issue new guidelines on exercise which will encourage adults to become more active by making small changes to their lifestyle.
This will include taking short walks with the family, getting off the bus a stop earlier and going jogging with friends or colleagues.
Around 1 in 4 adults are now considered obese and the rate has increased four fold in the last 25 years.
But some academics say this is mainly down to us becoming more inactive rather than us eating more calories.
Professor Fenton, who formerly advised the US Government on public health, said: ‘I would recommend that people start standing an hour a day, half an hour in the morning, half an hour in the afternoon and then build that up gradually. Standing lunches, standing coffees.
In 2012 a study by Harvard researchers published in the Lancet medical journal claimed that sitting down had caused more deaths globally than tobacco.
They calculated that 5.3 million deaths from heart disease, cancer and diabetes, would be avoided each year if all inactive people exercised, slightly more than the 5 million deaths annually from smoking.
Amy Thompson, Senior Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: ‘Your heart is the most important muscle in your body.
‘It doesn’t matter how you get your heart pumping, whether it’s taking regular walks or skipping the lift for the stairs, it can all make a big difference to your health.’