Excess sitting not only has serious negative effects on individuals’ physical and mental health, it also costs businesses—leading to increased health insurance premiums and decreased productivity, says a recent article from Aon’s “The One Brief.

Sitting too much has been linked to obesity, backache, dementia and muscle degeneration and can also significantly increase the risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Aon notes study findings that sitting for an hour reduces an individual’s lifespan by 22 minutes—whereas smokers shorten their lives by 11 minutes on average per cigarette.

At the company level, more health issues for employees can reduce their performance and increase the number of sick days, taking a toll on overall productivity. It can also lead to increased health insurance premiums.

How can businesses get employees to sit less and be more active?

  • Change corporate cultural attitudes. Employees may be reluctant to use company gyms or even take a 10-minute walk during working hours for fear of being seen as slacking off.
  • Encourage employees to make individual changes, such as walking to a colleague rather than emailing and taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Make corporate meetings more active by urging people to stretch at the start or end of meetings, or by having short meetings while walking.
  • Recommend that employees walk or move every 90 minutes.
  • Make changes to the office layout, such as removing chairs from meeting rooms or using “sit to stand” workstations (desks that can be adjusted upward so the user can alternate between sitting and standing).

For the full Aon article, see “Sitting vs. Smoking: What’s the Scale of the Risk?