Sitting is so culturally ingrained at work, at the wheel, in front of the TV and at the movies, it takes a great effort to imagine doing these things standing up, let alone peddling as you work at a "bike desk".

So, when the world's first specific guidelines on sitting and moving at work were published, they generated headlines such as:

"Abandon your chair for four hours to stay healthy", office workers are told

And: "Stand up at your desk for two hours a day", new guidelines say.

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But what many media reports did not mention was the guidelines were based on limited evidence. They were also co-authored by someone with commercial links to sit-stand desks (desks you raise and lower to work at standing or sitting), a link not declared when the guidelines were first published in a journal.

Media reports also overplayed the dangers of sitting at work, incorrectly saying it wiped out the benefits of exercise.

Our new study reveals the nature of this media coverage and its role in overselling sit-stand desks as a solution to inactivity at work.

Yes, sitting is associated with health risks, such as dying early from any cause, having heart disease and even cancer progression. So, no wonder we want to know if we should be sitting less.

Employers are also starting to see sitting as an occupational health and safety issue and sit-stand desks, standing desks and even treadmill desks
are popping up at work.

To address these issues, the guidelines recommended measures including:

• Aiming for two hours a day of standing and light activity (slow walking) during working hours, eventually progressing to a total of four hours a day for all office workers with mainly desk-based roles

• Regularly breaking up sit-down work with standing using adjustable sit-stand desks or work stations

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• Avoiding long periods of standing still, which may be as harmful as long periods sitting

• Changing posture and doing some light walking to alleviate possible musculoskeletal pain and fatigue, and

• Recommending employers warn staff about the potential dangers of too much sitting at work or at home, as part of workplace health and wellness activities.

How did the media report this?

Our team analysed news articles about the guidelines published in media outlets around the world.

We found all the articles reported the top-line recommendation to reduce sitting by two hours a day, and to replace the sitting with standing or slow walking.

Almost two-thirds of articles also noted the recommendation that people should regularly break up seated work with standing, and that this could be done with a sit-stand desk.