Reducing the risk of prolonged sitting

Friday, March 18, 2016 - 13:45

Reducing the risk of 'sitting disease'

Staff at the Bodleian Library are taking steps, metaphorically and literally, to reduce the risks associated with prolonged sitting after completing a successful training seminar with Osteopaths Tom Bedford and Ben Ousey in February. 

The training session was organised by Tamsyn Prior, the Bodleian's Staff Development administrator, and a second session with Tom and Ben has been scheduled in April due to high demand.

Prior to the seminar most Bodleian attendees were vaguely aware of risk factors such as increased likelihood of developing neck or back injuries.  Many were shocked to learn however that long periods of inactivity also are associated an increased risk of cancerstrokemetabolic disordersType 2 diabetes and even dementia (click on the links to learn more).  Given the accumulation of medical evidence, it is perhaps not surprising tha Apple CEO Tim Cook declared that 'sitting is the new cancer' (although Tom would be quick to point out that this claim in itself needs to be properly contextualised within the body of evidence to date).

'This session raised some very important issues that affect those who use pc's for a length of time - which we mostly do' remarked one attendee afterwards: 

'This issue is so important and I am sure most people have no idea of the problems we are building in for ourselves by ignorance. Those I have spoken with, who attended this session, have already put a number of the corrections we were told about into place - the very next day in most cases'. 

Some of the changes attendees are incorporating into their workplace routines include Mindfulness and relaxation techniques, which Ben Ousey covered during his portion of the talk.  Ben views Mindfulness as a key component of his own Osteopathy practice, and he believes that Mindfulness techniques can help people to maintain and even improve their health over the long term.  

It is one thing to be aware of the risks of prolonged sitting, but what can you do if you work at a desk all day?  Here are a few simple suggestions:

Every 30 minutes to an hour, stand up and walk around (or in place), giving your back, arms, and legs a stretch.  Stand up during phone calls.
Drink more water.  Keep a full litre of water at your desk and top it up throughout the day. 
Incorporate some walking at regular intervals throughout the day; even a few extra minutes of walking will make a cumulative difference to your health over time.
Try holding brief meetings with colleagues while standing up or even over a short walk. Many workplaces are changing their culture by encouraging standing meetings because it encourages better occupational health, improves productivity and saves everyone time. 
If you use a laptop at work or at home, consider purchasing a wireless keyboard and placing your laptop on books so that you can avoid unnecessary strain on your back and neck.


These simple steps can be combined with the more detailed, bespoke suggestions that Tom and Ben cover in their seminars.  For those who want more information, videos of stretches and exercises are also available on the Back Pain page of our website (and more videos will be added over the coming months).