"People [need to] take personal responsibility for the fact that they're driving a three- or four-thousand-pound car," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told ABC News last month. "If you're looking down at a cell phone for four seconds or a texting device for four seconds, you're driving the length of a football field without looking at the road."
Doctors, nutritionists and other health professionals tell us time and again how sitting on a couch, snacks at the ready, contributes to heart disease and diabetes. An American Cancer Society study released in July found that sitting for more than six hours of leisure time each day boosted the risk of dying, regardless of whether people smoked or were overweight.
But who knew until quite recently that the countless hours many workers spent seated at their desks, eyes glued to computer screens or phones attached to ears might cut their lives short?
A study published online last month and in this month's print issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found some evidence that sedentary workers were at an increased risk of dying -- even if they were diligent about exercising in their off hours. Lead author Jannique van Uffelen, a research fellow at the University of Queensland in Australia, led the review of 43 studies, involving more than 2 million workers, which examined sedentary time at the office. She and her colleagues found some limited evidence linking hours spent sitting at work with both diabetes and early death.
Although authors of an accompanying commentary called for more in-depth research in this area, they said van Uffelen's work was the first systematic review to look at the long-term effects of hours spent sitting at work.
Make sure you build into your daily schedule opportunities to get up from your desk and walk around. Take the stairs, leave your desk for lunch -- or better yet, convince your boss to invest in a combination treadmill and desk developed by James Levine, an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic. Called the walkstation, the device could be just what the doctor ordered for combating the negative effects of a sedentary work culture.
Multiple studies in recent years have focused on the impact of a hostile workplace and a bad boss on a worker's physical and mental health. It turns out that these factors can be life-shortening.
People who are harassed at the office and experience fear, intimidation, ostracism, psychological or physical threats, embarrassment or ridicule, tend to go to their graves sooner. Support for this association can be found in a study released in the Nov. 25, 2008, online edition of the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
Psychologist Anna Nyberg of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm found that working for a bad boss boosted the risk of chest pain, heart attack and death among more than 3,000 well-educated, middle-class Swedish men. She reported that men who perceived their bosses as poor leaders had a higher risk of dying than men who perceived their bosses to be competent.
Worse, the longer these men labored for a bad boss, the greater their stress and risk of heart disease or death. Nyberg found the association held regardless of social class, income, lifestyle, workload, or established heart disease risk factors like smoking and lack of exercise.