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The « Active (working) Life »? the issues involved
in combating sedentary behaviour at work


Paradoxically, starting the active (working) life helps to create physical inactivity! Sedentary behaviour has gradually paralysed the world of work, which is now getting behind halting this pandemic.




Julien Pierre, lecturer, and Lilian Pichot, lecturer HDR




Homo Sapiens appeared about 200,000 years ago. In the space of a few decades, the development of the service sector has completely changed our habits. The modern worker, stuck in front of their work station, is naturally not adapted to sitting down for 8 hours a day. According to the French sport ministry’s national resource centre for sport health and well-being, more than 70% of people are concerned by sedentary behaviour. ONAPS rightly emphasises the fact that physical activity and sedentary behaviour are major factors for health. Sedentary behaviour is now the fourth most important risk factor for mortality in the world, ahead of smoking, according to the WHO, which recommends 75 minutes of sustained activity (aerobic, jogging) or 150 minutes more moderate activity (rapid walking or cycling) per week. In this situation it is not surprising to see the behavioural futurist William Higham make a prediction of what office workers will look like in 20 years with Emma, who by 2040 will suffer from a hunched back, with red, dry eyes, varicose veins, swollen wrists and stress-linked eczema.

Governments and companies are aware of the risks and busy trying to get people moving again, with the idea of prevention, reducing social security expenditure and maintaining productivity. A number of initiatives are taken to encourage active means of transport within and around work. The cycling kilometric allowance is a good example, like the most recent initiative from the ministry responsible for social security, which relieves the employer of social contributions on certain expenses linked to sport in business (circular on 12 December 2019).

New players are emerging in what is gradually becoming a new market. They are putting their money on the alliance between productivity and expenditure of energy. There are more and more work stations linked to treadmills or pedal mechanisms (pedal-desk, active work station, fitness stool etc), with the emphasis on maintaining productivity levels while combating a problem likely to limit them!

Finally, businesses are increasingly involved in managing the bodies of their employees. The time spent in the workplace each week (estimated at 37.3 hours on average in France in 2018), along with the determination to fight against problems generated by work, gives them every chance to encourage their staff in physical activity. We must not forget that behind the talk of health, there are substantial economic implications. That is why this new call for activity contributes to drawing a model for the modern manager, an ‘over-active’ manager.




Julien Pierre and Lilian Pichot are the coordinators of the work ‘Sport at work: well-being and management’, published by Octares (2020)


Sport et citoyenneté