British workers not as active as they should be, suggests study

In a typical week, workers spend on average five hours and 41 minutes a day sitting at their desks and seven hours sleeping each night, according to the latest research on sedentary working lifestyles.

The research, led by Dr Myanna Duncan from the Work & Health Research Centre at Loughborough University, was presented to the annual conference of the occupational psychology division of the British Psychological Society in January.

The study found that nearly 70% of employees did not meet the recommended guidelines for physical activity, with half of people aged 50 or under failing to meet these recommendations.

Those who sat for longer at work were also more likely to sit outside working hours, with a correlation between body-mass-index scores and time spent sitting at work.

Moreover, more time spent sitting at work was associated with a decrease in mental wellbeing.

These findings were a subset of a larger study looking at employees’ experiences of occupational health provision over an 18-month period during 2009-11, with more than 1,000 employees measuring use and experiences of occupational health services and their physical activity levels.

In the UK, and likewise elsewhere in Europe, there are now twice as many workers aged 50 or over as there are workers aged 25 or younger, it added.

“People don’t need a psychologist to tell them to get up and walk around. But if it helps, I’d tell them to put a post-it note on their computer to remind them. Anyway, go and talk to your colleagues face to face, it’s a lot more sociable and better for you than emailing them,” said Duncan.

Separate research presented at the same conference argued that shift work, long hours and being unable to switch off when away from work are some of the key stressors that lead police officers to experience anxiety and depression.

The study, by Dr Almuth McDowell and Dr Mark Cropley from the University of Surrey and Professor Gail Kinman from the University of Bedfordshire, comprised a large-scale survey of police officers and staff from a major UK police force, and surveyed more than 1,200 people.

Contrary to public belief, men were just as likely as women to experience work-family conflict.

Support from managers, co-workers and senior management was found to buffer the officers’ experience of work-family conflict on wellbeing. Other support, from outside the police force, was not found to offer as much protection.

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