We hate to say ‘we told you so!’, but it’s official! Public Health England (PHE) has just published the first expert guidelines that encourage office workers to stand up for at least part of their working day.

The Expert Statement, commissioned by PHE and UK community interest company, Active Working CIC, is designed to help employers know what to aim for, when trying to make workplaces less sedentary and more active, and specifically encourages the use of adjustable sit-stand desks.

Dr Ann Hoskins, Deputy Director for Health and Wellbeing, Healthy People, Public Health England said: ‘This research supports the Chief Medical Officer’s recommendations to minimise how much we sit still. Being active is good for your physical and mental health. Simple behaviour changes to break up long periods of sitting can make a huge difference.’

The Expert Statement, ‘The sedentary office: a growing case for change towards better health and productivity’, was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

In essence, it makes the following recommendations:

  • The initial aim should be to work towards getting at least two hours a day of standing and light walking during working hours, and eventually work up to a total of four hours per day.

  • Seated work should be regularly broken up with standing work and vice versa. Sit–stand adjustable desk stations are highly recommended.

  • As with avoidance of remaining in a static seated position for a long time, remaining in a static standing posture should also be avoided.

  • Movement must be checked and corrected on a regular basis, especially if musculoskeletal sensations are experienced. (Occupational standing and walking aren’t shown to cause lower back and neck pain, and can provide relief.)

  • People new to adopting more standing-based work may have some musculoskeletal sensations and fatigue as part of the process of adapting to this. If these cannot be relieved by either changing posture or walking for a few minutes, then the worker should rest, including sitting, in a posture that relieves the sensations. If discomfort persists, then medical advice should be sought.

  • Employers should promote the message to their staff that prolonged sitting, across work and leisure time, may significantly increase one’s risk of cardiometabolic diseases and premature death.