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Why sitting at your desk all day can be a killer

YOUR office job could be killing you.

Researchers say the workplace culture of forcing people to sit for long periods of time at their desks can have detrimental effects on employees' health.

Adjustable desks, treadmill desks and walk-and-talk meetings are just some of the ways experts suggest office culture could change.

Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute Head of Physical Activity Research Professor David Dunstan said research showed people were still at risk of developing health problems down the track from sitting at a desk for most of the day, even if they exercised outside of work.

He said this could be disheartening for those who exercised but people needed more physical activity throughout the day.

Prof Dunstan said people may exercise for 30 minutes a day, but for nine hours a day they were sitting in a "low energy” state.

"When we're sitting, particularly for long periods of the day, we've got very minimal usage of muscles,” he said.

Lack of movement in the workplace could be contributing to the number of overweight and obese people in Australia, but Prof Dunstan said it was not clear how much it contributed.

He said there was room to change.

"The biggest challenge that we have is changing the culture, particularly in workplaces. We've fallen into this social norm that interfacing with a computer whilst seated is simply just normal. But now we're starting to understand that normal behaviour is likely to be detrimental to health.”

University of Queensland's Dr Nicholas Gilson, who has done research in occupational physical activity, said the university was studying ways to get people moving around the office more, including encouraging people to have walk-and-talk meetings, and getting workers to get up and speak to a colleague rather than sending an email.

He said they were also exploring the impact of height-adjustable desks, which allowed workers to stand, and treadmill desks, which allowed workers to walk slowly while working.

There was still no clear answer on how much a worker should spend sitting, standing and moving but Dr Gilson said standing up all day could be as harmful as sitting all day.

He said there should be a mixture of movement.

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