Doctors ask: how can we offset the risks associated with sitting all day?

The popular Food Medic Podcast run by junior doctor, bestselling writer and fitness blogger Dr Hazel Wallace recently broached the subject of sitting: what's so bad about it, and what can we do to offset the risks?

Junior doctor, bestselling writer and fitness blogger Dr Hazel Wallace smiling at the camera while sitting at a breakfast bar in a cafe

In her podcast Dr Hazel Wallace was joined by Dr Zoe Williams and Dr John Sykes to discuss 'lifestyle medicine and the NHS'. Around 16 minutes into the conversation the trio begin to discuss concerning statistics surrounding sedentary behaviour, remarking on the fact that the average Brit spends an astonishing 70% of their waking hours sitting both at work, on the commute and at home. Less than a century ago the population walked an average of 15,000 steps a day, while today we're all aiming for 10,000 and most people fail even to achieve this.

Dr John Sykes says: "Research shows that if we are active for a certain period of that day then yes, we can [offset the risks of sitting all day]. But the amount we have to do is quite a lot. In fact we'd have to do 60-75 minutes of moderate intensity activity in that day in order to offset seven to eight hours of sitting. For most people and the busy schedules we have, that's unrealistic and not really very manageable.

"But if we are able to stand for periods of the day when we would be sitting; if we're able to go for a walk, or get up every hour, maybe just to stretch our legs a little bit, that will offset the risks of sitting for long periods. Which is quite encouraging because we can make those small changes to our day, whether it be having a standing desk, setting an alarm so that we do get up every hour or so to stretch our legs a bit. It's very important that we don't succumb to the chair."

The medical professionals go on to discuss the popular target of 10,000 steps a day. Dr Zoe Williams says: "I think it's a great thing because it encourages lots of people to move more. However, it's not based on science or research. It was actually dreamed up by a Japanese chap who wanted to sell pedometers, so it was a very clever marketing ploy. For people who think that 10,000 steps is just too much, the great new is that - if you're going to do something at a brisk pace, that's ten minutes of brisk, continuous walking every day, you can reduce your risk of early death by 14% and it gets you towards that recommendation of 150 minutes [of physical activity]."

You can listen to all of the very interesting Food Medic podcasts here, or find out more about how to easily get your 10,000 steps a day at work by browsing our infographic below, which you can download for free simply by clicking on it and saving it to your files.

Download our 'An office worker’s guide togetting 10,000 steps a day' infographic