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U.S. Doctors May Order Office Workers Out of Their Chairs

Sitting in front of a computer monitor all day may soon be officially against doctors’ advice.

The American Medical Association, which represents 225,000 doctors in the U.S. and recommends ways to improve public health and medical care, will consider whether to recognize the dangers of sitting all day -- at work, in the car or at home -- at its annual policy meeting. The proposed resolution is among about 150 to be debated at AMA’s meeting starting June 15 in Chicago.

The resolution cites a 2006 study of 222,000 Australians that found sitting for more than four hours a day, often at work, caused 6.9 percent of deaths. That was after controlling for things such as obesity and physical activity. Other research has determined that sitting or being sedentary most of the day can raise the risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer and low sperm count in men.

“Many individuals are forced to spend numerous hours each day sitting at work or in the classroom without available alternatives,” said the doctors, members of the California Medical Association, in the resolution they are sponsoring.

The doctors call for work breaks, standing work stations, use of isometric balls instead of chairs and other ways of making time spent at a work desk less harmful to long-term health.

One 2011 study found that among professional workers in Minneapolis, many spend about half their entire work day sitting down.

Obesity Resolution

Other resolutions to be considered will decide whether to declare obesity a disease, clarifying it from what the proposal calls a mix of definitions. The groups sponsoring the proposal, including the American College of Cardiology and the American College of Surgeons, compared obesity as a health threat with lung cancer caused by smoking.

More than two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obesity-related health costs are more than $168 billion annually, according to a Feb. 20 study in JAMA-Surgery.

There are now medical methods to treat obesity, the group said, and it should be managed and recognized accordingly. That includes drugs, bariatric surgery and lifestyle changes.

Another proposal would recommend banning the marketing of energy drinks, such as those made by Red Bull GmbH and Monster Beverage Corp. Coca-Cola Co. is the world’s biggest maker of carbonated beverages, and along with PepsiCo Inc. and Red Bull dominate the market for sport and energy drinks.

The organization will also weigh in on genetic information and discrimination and labeling alcohol content in over-the-counter drugs.

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