The NHS Choices website, which is aimed at allowing people to make informed decisions about their health, features a research review conducted by researchers from Loughborough University and the University of Leicester, which was published in the peer-reviewed journal Diabetologia in October 2012. The piece is prefaced with the startling announcement:

‘Having a desk job doubles your chances of having a heart attack.’

The researchers were concerned that, given changes in lifestyle and the increasingly desk-bound nature of modern employment, the health problems associated with sedentary behaviour were likely to be increasingly prevalent. Among many other pieces of compelling evidence, they cited the findings of a 2011 study showing that the average adult now spends 50-60% of their day in sedentary pursuits, a figure that can only have increased in the intervening years.

The researchers included 18 studies (with a total of 794,577 participants) that had examined the association between the time spent sitting down and the risk of certain health outcomes. The studies examined the association between sedentary time and diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cardiovascular mortality, and all-cause mortality.

The main findings of the research review were that, compared to the shortest time spent sitting, the longest time spent sitting was associated with a:

  • 112% increase in risk of diabetes
  • 147% increase in cardiovascular events
  • 90% increase in death due to cardiovascular events
  • 49% increase in (premature) death due to any cause

However, having a desk job doesn’t have to be a death sentence. A simple change to a sit-stand desk, which allows every working day to be punctuated with frequent standing and moving around, can ward off the risks of diabetes and cardiac disease in a way that an after-office gym workout simply cannot.