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Dutch workers spend an average of 8.9 hours a day sitting, of which 4.5 hours during working hours. This makes the Netherlands “European champion of sitting. In the financial and ICT sectors, people sit the longest with 7 and 6.8 hours per day, respectively. Prolonged sitting significantly increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Those who sit for more than 8 hours daily and do little exercise are 74 percent more likely to have these conditions. TNO explains these findings in its latest fact sheet on physical workload.

Why this is important:

Sitting is bad for our health, but nowhere in Europe is there more sitting than in the Netherlands.

The numbers are staggering and call for action. The Dutch spend much of their day sitting down, a habit that is not without consequences for public health. According to the TNO study, Dutch workers spend an average of 4.5 hours sitting during working hours. This number is in addition to the 3.4 hours they spend sitting in their free time, plus an hour during commuting. This brings the total sitting time to almost nine hours per day.

The phenomenon is not evenly spread across all sectors. The financial and ICT sectors have the highest number of hours spent sitting. With an average of 7 hours for lawyers and financial specialists and 6.8 hours for software and application developers, these professionals sit significantly longer than the national average.

Health risks of a sedentary existence

Excessive sitting is associated with serious health risks. The Health Council has made it clear that prolonged sitting significantly increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. People who sit for more than 8 hours daily and engage in little physical activity are as much as 74% more likely to have these conditions compared to people who sit for less than 4 hours a day and exercise regularly.

The impact of a sedentary lifestyle cannot be underestimated. TNO emphasizes that prolonged sitting is also linked to a higher risk of premature death. Sitting more than 8 hours a day results in a 27 percent higher chance of premature death compared to those who sit less than 4 hours a day. These figures cry out for attention and action.

The diversity of professions

Not all industries are equally seat-intensive. Trade, agriculture, and hospitality have significantly less sitting time with 3.4, 3.2, and 1.3 hours per day, respectively. This is substantially less than sectors in which office work is predominant.

The data show that almost half of Dutch workers, 47 percent, sit for 6 hours or more during an average working day. The difference between the various occupational groups and sectors illustrates that not only individual choices but also the nature of the work, plays an important role in the amount of time spent sitting.

Action required for a healthy work environment

TNO’s findings put the spotlight on the need for a healthier work environment. This goes beyond simply encouraging workers to exercise more. It requires rethinking work structures and workplace design to reduce prolonged sitting. Innovations such as standing desks, walking meetings, and encouraging breaks are just a few examples of possible interventions.

In addition to physical adjustments in the work environment, it is also important to pay attention to employee management. TNO is exploring the concept of algorithmic management and how it can contribute to better health and well-being at work. Initiatives like this can help create a culture where movement is integrated into the workday.

Research and inspiration for the future

TNO not only publishes fact sheets on sitting while working but also on other aspects of physical workload. With this information, the organization hopes to inspire employers and employees to take steps to improve physical workload during work.