I used to loathe exercise. I hate the competition, the changing into gym kit, the smell, and the enthusiasm of the people with good leg muscles. But one day, when my children were very wee and my two part time jobs were eating away my life, I needed to find something that would keep me sane, and counter-intuitive though it seemed at the time, I joined the Glasgow women’s jogging network. Run 2 minutes, walk 5 for around half an hour in the company of a coach (and other women also bordering on maternal madness).

Six weeks later I could run 20 minutes without stopping and I never have stopped. Twice a week (or more) I run, I walk daily, I dance, I cycle and I enjoy the freedom of physical activity. It is a solace and a pleasure and of course I love to say how active I am without being a sports hero. However, my working life involves sitting at my desk for at least 8 hours a day, often 10, sometimes more and sometimes I venture in to the office at weekends. BUT I say I am an active person!

13.20 Prof Nanette Mutrie MBE, Everyday Actions-Walk and Talk
Professor Nanette Mutrie MBE talked about why sitting is bad for us at our February World Cancer Day Conference

At the SCPN conference, Professor Nanette Mutrie gave an excellent presentation on the risks of inactivity. She reminded us that the current DH guidelines say limit sedentary behaviour. She also showed convincing data that inactivity is an independent risk factor for health, highlighting mechanisms such as LPP1 expression. She also drew our attention to a meta-analysis published in the Annals of Internal Medicine by Biswas et al1 showing that prolonged sitting time was independently associated with poor health outcomes, regardless of physical activity levels. Pooled analysis data on high physical activity with HIGH sedentary time increases all-cause mortality, and cancer incidence and cancer mortality. Next…she made us stand up!

13.20 Prof Nanette Mutrie MBE (3)
Standing Delegates At Our World Cancer Day Conference
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My Standing Desk

We have to conclude that working lives are risky. A recent comment in The Onion2 suggests “we stand up, walk to the car park and never come back to our desks”. Sadly I have come back to mine – now a standing desk. So when I patiently wait for my computer to load up or PowerPoint to open, I can easily stretch or do a few foot turns or even a squat or two. When I have a conference call on speaker phone, I can extend to a full office stretch out. I love it when my daughter sends me the email that contains the 4 minute dance break, and it is actually nice to walk out and ask somebody something now and again, instead of an email. As for the 2.5 minutes it takes a kettle to boil, the choices are endless. Professor Mutrie showed us a wonderful array of mini activity breaks, from pitch and putt to table tennis. Next … She made us stand up again!

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“Mini Activity Breaks” in the office of Professor Nanette Mutrie MBE

So now, we have two risk factors to think about in the physical activity domain – that of activity and that of inactivity. Put simply – two questions: how many hours sitting and how many minutes of moderate activity? Once the concept sinks in, have a look at some social media links like @getGBstanding and @ACTIVEworking, and don’t forget @nanettemutrie! Looking for research experts in the area – look at the @isbnpa2015 meeting, June 2015, Edinburgh.

Look forward to standing with you there!

– Annie

Professor Annie S Anderson BSc PhD RD FRCP (Edin)


1 Biswas A et al (2015) Sedentary Time and Its Association With Risk for Disease Incidence, Mortality, and Hospitalization in Adults Annals of Internal Medicine 162, 123-132

2 The Onion Health Experts Recommend Standing Up At Desk, Leaving Office, Never Coming Back http://www.theonion.com/articles/health-experts-recommend-standing-up-at-desk-leavi,37957/ 27th February 2015

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