Being inactive is as dangerous as smoking

Posted by HLD 05 APRIL 2017


Recent studies have shown that an inactive and sedentary lifestyle can be just as bad for you as smoking. It got us thinking about what we can do to prevent the risks and get people active.

  • Research shows that sitting for at least 8 hours a day could increase the risk of premature death by up to 60%
  • Scientists say sedentary lifestyles are as great a threat to public health as smoking and are causing more deaths than obesity
  • Office workers must exercise for one hour a day to combat the deadly risk of modern working lifestyles
  • We recommend the best ways to get the daily amount of exercise you need, whilst having some fun at the same time


Office work, a job that an estimated 80% of the UK employed population does, is apparently as harmful to health as smoking. The study in the Lancet Medical Journal details the data, and has been widely reported in numerous publications, including the The Daily Mail, The Telegraph, The Independent and the BBC.

The data indicates the following: overall inactivity could lead to health problems on par with the serious heart diseases caused by smoking. When we saw the article, we were stunned.

The studies that have gone into the effects smoking can have on your health are certainly well publicised, but could working in an office be as bad for you as smoking?


Working in an Office is as bad as Smoking

The Study Heading


The study paints an alarming story. The research paper itself may be difficult for many readers to wade through, but the overall message given by it is clear:


"Office workers must exercise for one hour a day to combat the deadly risk of modern working lifestyles, a major Lancet study has found.

Research on more than one million adults found that sitting for at least eight hours a day could increase the risk of premature death by up to 60 per cent.

Scientists said sedentary lifestyles were now posing as great a threat to public health as smoking, and were causing more deaths than obesity." - The Daily Telegraph (2016)



Whilst the paper does not explicitly state that inactivity is as directly damaging to your body as smoking is, the effects of prolonged time sat down with little physical exertion don’t do wonders for your body’s upkeep. In fact, the number of deaths recorded due to ‘sedentary office work’ exceeded the number of deaths to smoking in recent years by 200,000. (Evening Standard, 2016)


Factor in how some individuals may not walk to work (and commute with public transport or a personal vehicle), spend 8 or more hours sat at a desk in front of a screen, not walk home from work, then spend the rest of the evening at home relaxing in front of the TV before going to bed. The overwhelming question in which case is: How much of the day is actually spent being active?


How active are you?


The Effects Heading


The most common problem that develops as a result of inactivity like this are cardiovascular diseases, particularly coronary artery disease.


"Even if you have existing risk factors for cardiovascular disease, if you keep active the evidence suggests that this may lower your risk of premature death compared to inactive people with no risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

But if you do not keep active, the risk to your cardiovascular health is similar to that from hypertension, abnormal blood lipids and obesity." - World Heart Federation


The World Heart Foundation also recognises the following heart conditions as being a result of an inactive lifestyle.

  • Abnormal Blood Pressure
  • Abnormal Blood Lipid (fat) levels
  • Abnormal Blood Glucose (sugars) levels
  • Blood Clotting Factors
  • Blood Vessel Health
  • Blood Vessel Inflammation

All of which are strong contributing factors to heart disease.
Going further back as far back as 2012, an NHS report reiterates how an inactive lifestyle could be detrimental to health. The graph below compiles data from the NHS study, showing the remarkable increase in risks the lifestyle can bring.


Graph Showing the Increase in Health Risks Linked to an Inactive Lifestyle

Graph Showing the Effects of Inactivity on Health

What can we do? Heading


Whilst these figures can sound worrying, don’t be sprinting to the doctors for a health check just yet, as these effects can be very easily kept in check.


The study also cites how ‘an hours brisk exercise’ can cut down the risks of premature death greatly. In fact, the study goes as far to urge employers to actively encourage regular time away from the desk and away from the screen, be it through longer break times, or even through the addition of gymnasiums that employees can take advantage of.


The ultimate message is to:


"Build Physical activity in your everyday life" (Prof. Ekelund, 2016)


Many office workers spend their hour lunch break at their desks checking their favourite news site, watching videos, catching up with social media - we’re spoilt for choice with ways to cure our boredom. So spoiled in that many now don’t leave the screen they spend the entire day working at. 

Many Office Workers eat at their desk


Our Solutions Heading

  • Find a way you can exercise at work
  • Find a way you can exercise before or after work
  • Find a way you can avoid prolonged periods sat down in front of a screen

Following the discussion this article has generated, we decided to do a little more digging, and find some solutions for the "at-risk" office worker to avoid the perils of remaining inactive. We turned to the calculator on the ‘MyFitnessPal’ page to run some numbers. 


An hours brisk walk equates to 319 calories burned, for the average man weighing 84kg. For the average woman weighing 70kg this is 266 calories


So, with the 319 and 266 calories burned targets in mind, we thought we would see what using the variety of products we sell would provide. Again using MyFitnessPal we entered each of our products to see what it would tell us.*



*Some Activities are Estimations based on similar activities


Our Tests Heading


We actually decided to go one step further, and in the name of science and fun, tasked two members of our team to take up the challenge of half an hour of fun a day! We chose two quite different candidates, Jess from Marketing and Ben, our Operations Manager, as our guinea pigs for the experiment.


Both were of different ages, body styles and heights, but each within what would be considered a 'correct' BMI for themselves. Each had their own calorie counting device, so we set the two to work to try and see for ourselves just how much of a work out our games room gear could give.


We have shown our results for a 30 minute duration - this is to allow you to have 30 minutes for your lunch, and then 30 minutes of activity.




The Results Heading




Whilst we did not have the facility to test out a dance machine in our own tests, our obtained results from playing arcades both sitting and standing largely produced 'as expected' results, quite a bit below the workout a brisk walk may give. Great if you're looking at swiping a high score, maybe not the best for getting away from a screen to stretch your legs.




Pool is where we encountered our first surprise. Initially predicted by the exercise calculator to not provide the greatest workout, given that pool playing is generally quite a sedate game when played casually, but pool actually ended up burning a fair few calories with the few frames they played, taking each participant above what they would have burned on their brisk walk. Things were looking promising for the following activities.




Things began to really hot up with Foosball, what with a much more active involvement in the game than any of the previous games, as was evident with Jess' active playstyle. The constant action in the game kept both players moving, and the count at the end reflected the increased activity, producing the best calorie burning activity of the test so far.


Table Tennis


With table tennis being the top choice (apart from the dance machine) from the calculator that would deliver the best results, and putting Jess and Ben through their paces certainly provided the two with their biggest work out so far. To level the playing field, we pitted each player against another player of a similar skill level, and let them play for the duration. The result after time was up was clear to see - Table Tennis had taken a definite lead.


Air Hockey


The final activity up to try was Air Hockey, and the results provided another surprise. We predicted that the lightning quick reactions and movements needed to keep the puck in play would give both players a great work out, possibly on par with table tennis, but the results did not reflect this, and instead produced results more on-par with the workout the pair had received playing foosball.




After sitting down to look through the stats each device had given us, the overall result turned out a much more positive result than any of us had anticipated. Whilst arcade machines did burn less than the recommended 'walking' threshold, the vast majority of activities not only provided just as good a work out, but in many cases exceeded them quite impressively.


Practical Application Heading


Spending your whole lunch hour is probably not all that practical, after all you need to have something to eat. Therefore we have worked on some combinations of exercise which could be applied by most people.


Using our recorded calorie counts as a guide, we've calculated how much additional walking or brisk jogging you would need to burn the required amount of calories daily to combat heart disease.


So for example, let's say you're a male that played table tennis for 30 minutes each day, burning 220 calories in the process. This leaves 99 calories left to burn, which can be made up with wither 19 minutes of brisk walking, or just 6 minutes of brisk (7.5 mph) jogging. 


Bear in mind that this data is based upon our own results, so feel free to head over to myfitnesspal's page to calculate for your own body weight and choice of exercise.




Exercise Required Chart Numbers.png



Companies Leading the Way Header


Increasingly businesses are installing games room equipment in their offices. We have done installations for: Google, Facebook, Sky, AirBnB, Marks and Spencer, Tesco and John Lewis


This is a great way for staff to break up the day, have some fun with their colleagues and most importantly get some exercise.


It's not just big businesses taking this seriously, smaller businesses are too. Public Relations firm PIC PR have incorporated a pool table, a table tennis table and a football table into their break-out space.


 "Getting the team up and away from their desks is a key consideration for us." commented David Barrett, Managing Director at PIC PR. "It clears your head, helps you think better, when you do something different and get active. It's also great fun for the team to play and compete together."


PIC PR Table Tennis


Summary Heading


Not every office or household has the space for lots of games room products, but having such equipment nearby and readily available for use at Home Leisure Direct has definitely had an effect on our team’s day-to-day routine. We can’t help but think that businesses having just one or two games room products available for use can have a profound effect on health, especially on the more active games like foosball or table tennis.


Sitting at a desk for 8 hours and then sitting on the sofa all evening is dramatically affecting your health. Act now.


We’ve seen break out areas becoming more common given what we see with our installations, but equally think that most, if not every, desk-based office or company could reap the benefits given the effect we know they have here in our own offices and from the companies we have supplied.


Whether you’re looking for something to keep yourself or the family active at home, or are a business owner looking for a way to keep your crew fighting fit, have a look at our website or talk to our team to discuss your ideas and requirements.


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