NIOSH: Total Worker Health Concepts Can Reduce Health Risks from Sedentary Work

Published March 22, 2017

​NIOSH’s latest “Workplace Solutions” document describes organizational practices that can help reduce health risks associated with sedentary work. The concepts discussed in the document are based on the agency’s Total Worker Health (TWH) program, an initiative that seeks to integrate protection from work-related safety and health hazards with promotion of injury and illness prevention.

NIOSH notes that U.S. workplaces have become increasingly sedentary, and recommends an integrated approach to address sedentary work environments, including jobs associated with both prolonged sitting and prolonged standing. Health effects associated with prolonged sitting include back and shoulder pain, premature mortality, diabetes, chronic diseases, metabolic syndrome, and obesity. Prolonged standing can lead to venous disorders, back pain, and other musculoskeletal disorders.

Organizations can help decrease sedentary time in the work environment by offering standing or walking meetings, providing sit-stand workstations, and offering flexible rest breaks for workers whose jobs involve prolonged standing and static posture. According to NIOSH, addressing the health effects of sedentary work through management support and flexible rest breaks helps promote health and prevent musculoskeletal injuries.

Details of the TWH concepts recommended by NIOSH are available in the Workplace Solutions document.