News & Insights 24 August 2015

Workaholics, inactivity & disease risk

According to the result of a recent large-scale study, if you work 55-hours a week or more you are putting your health at risk, increasing your chances of having and even dying from a stroke and, to a slightly lesser extent, getting coronary heart disease.

The researchers looked at the results from twenty-five published and unpublished studies, in a systematic review and meta-analysis. The results come from a large number of people from across the UK, Europe, USA, and Australia making them more robust and believable; 603,828 men and women contributed to the analysis for coronary heart disease risk and 528,908 for stroke.

They found that people who worked for 55 hours or more increased their risk of developing coronary heart disease by a modest, but significant, 13% in comparison to people working the standard 35 to 40-hour week. More frightening, working 55 hours or more increased the risk of having a stroke by 33%. In fact, stroke risk increased gradually as working hours increased above standard; working just a few hours more (41-48 hours) increased risk by 10% and working 49-54 hours by 27%.

Stress was obviously implicated in the association between working long hours and disease risk, but the researchers made it clear that sitting still for such a long time can also be blamed. Not forgetting that working 11-hours a day doesn’t leave much time for physical activity. So, workaholics are increasing their risk by being both sedentary and inactive – add in high stress levels and it’s no wonder the research found the risk they did.

Increasing activity and decreasing sedentary time will have a huge impact on your risk of a number of preventable diseases, not just coronary heart disease and stroke. Simply getting up from your desk and walking around for 5-minutes every hour can make a big difference, even if you work a standard 40-hour week – you could pace around when you’re talking on the phone, walk to a kitchen that’s a bit further away from your desk to get your coffee, or fill up a small glass of water so you have to fill-up more frequently. If you do this each hour for 8-hours (40-hour week) you could reduce your sedentary time (and increase your activity) by 40-minutes a day or just under 3.5 hours in a working week. The numbers are even better for those working a 55-hour week, adding up to 55-minutes a day or over 4.5 hours in the working week.

And it is the multitude of health benefits that can be achieved through physical activity that has been partly responsible for over 50’s spending more than £1.5billion a year to keep fit, according to a study by the insurance company RIAS.

You don’t need to wait until you’re 50 to take advantage of the benefits of increasing your physical activity and decreasing the time you spend sitting or standing still – start today. The key is to understand what activities “count” for you. You are probably doing something every day that would help you achieve the levels needed to benefit health – you just need to find out what it is for you. It might be your active commute, lunchtime walk, a round of golf, or simply popping to the shops for a pint of milk.

The KiActiv system will show you what your lifestyle means in the context of the many dimensions of physical activity and give you the tools you need to optimise your lifestyle and health, now and for the future.

The KiActiv® Team