Sedentary life: the dangers you should avoid

Australians are famed for active lifestyles and a love of the outdoors, but with an increasing number of the population working inside office environments, traditional levels of physical activity during the working day are reducing. How can a workforce stay healthy in balance of a sedentary life?

We now have a generation of workers who sit for 8 hours or more working on computers. According to a recent study in The Australian, “The professions, with 2.7 million people, are by far the biggest occupational group in Australia. Along with 1.6 million managers, they have steadily been increasing their share of the Australian workforce over the past 20 years, rising from 27 per cent to 34 per cent of the total.”

sedentary life office environment

There is a difficulty with identifying associated health risks for white collar workers as they are not as pronounced or obvious as those working in trades, industry or agriculture. It can be very easy to ignore the warning signs but there is now the medical evidence to suggest that the health risks posed to 34% of the Australian workforce are numerous.

AGL is committed to ensuring all health risks in the workplace are removed or minimised for our people and our customers as much as possible so we asked our own Health Safety and Environment experts to provide some tips on general office wellbeing for those doing sedentary work:

Prolonged sitting

According to the Department of Health, “56% of Australian adults are either inactive or have low levels of physical activity – that is more than 9.5 million adults.” Being sedentary for prolonged periods (e.g. sitting at your desk or work station) can have a negative impact on your spine, organs and muscles. Ensure that you stretch regularly and take walks (opt for the stairs instead of escalators whenever possible) and remain as active as possible throughout the day to counteract this.

Bad posture

Ensure that you are sitting with your back straight (and supported), arms close to your sides with your elbows bent at 90 degrees and your feet flat on the floor. Arrange items on your desk so you don’t have to strain your back or neck to reach them. Also try not to leave your hand resting on your mouse while you look at the monitor.

Last year, The Washington Post published ‘The Health Hazards of Sitting’ which illustrated in effective clarity the internal dangers that bad posture and other poor habits exacerbate.

Storage of bags

Falls in the office are one of the most common Loss Time Injuries (LTIs) for white collar workers and casually stowed bags and bag straps play a particular dangerous role in these injuries. Be vigilant around your own desk area, tucking in any bag straps that could catch on your feet (ideally your bag should sit on your desk if possible). Please also be mindful of pushed out chairs and open desk drawers in your pod or office space.

eye strain

Eye strain

Evidence suggests that you won’t permanently damage your eye sight staring at a pixelated screen(s) for many hours at a time. However, it is good practise to take regular breaks from the computer and relieve your eyes by using them in a natural manner.

To reduce your risk of tiring your eyes experts recommend that you look away from your screen at least every 20 minutes and gaze at a distant object (at least 20 feet away) for at least 20 seconds. Some eye specialists call this the “20-20-20 rule.” Looking into the distance relaxes the focusing muscle inside the eye and helps reduce fatigue.


It is recommended that an adult should consume at least 6-8 glasses of water per day to stay hydrated, especially during the summer months. Hydration is a proven factor in productivity at work and drinking just a litre of water can increase your cortisol levels which the body produces naturally to reduce stress.

Learn how to strike a better work-life balance as a small business owner.