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GPs’ health at risk from excessive sedentary behaviour, study finds

by Beth Gault
25 July 2022

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GPs are at high risk of health problems associated with excessive sedentary behaviour, such as cardiovascular disease, according to research.

The study, published in the BJGP Open journal this month, looked at the average time GPs spent sitting down on the job.  

Researchers used questionnaires and accelerometer devices, which were worn constantly on the thigh for a week by 353 GPs.

They found that GPs on average spent more 10.5 hours sitting down in their working day, which is similar to those in educational and telecom industries.

The authors found that workload was the biggest factor in reducing sedentary time among GPs and that the rise in telephone consultations had only increased the level of sedentary time.

The study concluded: ‘This study has demonstrated that GPs have good awareness of the negative health consequences of excessive sedentary behaviour and physical inactivity, and that most GPs are unhappy with their current levels of sedentary behaviour and physical activity (PA).

‘Numerous barriers and facilitators to GPs increasing their PA have been identified. Therefore, further research should assess the acceptability of co-produced multicomponent interventions aimed at encouraging general practice staff to be less sedentary and more physically active throughout the working day, as well as how this affects their interactions with patients and ability to counsel patients about PA.’

Lead researcher, Dr Richard Mayne, from the school of medicine, dentistry and biomedical sciences at Queen’s University Belfast, said: ‘When workload can’t be reduced, active workstations are a great way to tackle sedentary behaviour.

‘Only 6% of the GPs we surveyed used sit-stand desks. We hope that our research will help draw attention to this and encourage GPs and other sedentary professions to think about ways to address this.’

Earlier this year, a survey of 800 GPs found that the majority of GPs thought having a standing desk could improve consultations on physical health.