Tag Archives: Help

Losing a child to suicide is devastating. Schools can help prevent these tragedies

The tragedy of losing a child is unimaginable. Losing a child to suicide is worse. Those who have endured such horrors will know the grief is utterly excruciating. It’s no wonder that parents who have lost children in such a way become serious risks of suicide themselves.

My son Patrick was 25 when he took his own life, although I believe his suicidal thoughts began in childhood. It’s distressing to think that an average of four schoolchildren take their own lives every week in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The majority are teenagers, but some are still in primary school – and because the official statistics don’t recognise suicides by children under 10, that number is likely to be even higher.


The 200 children lost to suicide each year could be dozens more. E​ven if it’s dozens less it’s still a national scandal

Coroners seem particularly reluctant to find suicide verdicts in the case of children, perhaps in their desire to spare families further pain. Such is the stigma that still exists around suicide. The requirement to meet the criminal standard of proof, “beyond reasonable doubt”, also makes it difficult for them to reach this conclusion. The charity Papyrus, which works to prevent young suicide and of which I am now a trustee, continues to press the Department of Justice for change. Only when a suicide verdict can be recorded on the “balance of probabilities” will the true scale be revealed.

As things currently stand, the 200 schoolchildren lost to suicide each year in the UK could be dozens more. Even if it was dozens less, it would still be a national scandal. Those of us in the club that no one wants to join are aware that life will never be the same again. Yet the grief is not confined to parents – the suicide of a child has a devastating effect on siblings, family, friends and entire school communities.

Schools are in a unique position to help prevent these tragedies. Children spend much of their waking hours at school, so teachers are in the right place to recognise that a child might be at risk. But without effective training or guidance, the opportunity for such interventions are lost. So while a recent YouGov survey commissioned by Papyrus found that more than 10% of teaching professionals said a student shares suicidal thoughts with them at least once a term, only half felt confident they could provide adequate support.

As part of its current campaign – Save the Class of 2018 – which aims to increase teacher awareness of suicide prevention, Papyrus has created a free guide (pdf) to give schools and colleges the information they need to support students who might be at risk of suicide.

It includes guidance on prevention, such as how to improve connectedness, developing a suicide prevention policy, and helpful and unhelpful language to use. There’s intervention advice, which covers what to do when you have a concern, what to look out for, and how to ask about suicide. It covers what to do after a pupil has taken their own life, how to inform and support other students, and how to communicate with the media.

The guide is very deliberately aimed at the whole school community, because it could be a teacher, secretary, dinner lady or support assistant who first identifies a vulnerable student. The challenge now is making all of our 20,000-plus UK schools aware of it.

Of course, this is not just a school issue, but a societal one. Suicide prevention is everyone’s business, but human nature tends to persuade us, until fate intervenes, that tragedies like suicide affect other people and not us.

Had I, as a headteacher, been told just how critical it was to have a suicide prevention plan in place, I’m pretty confident that I would have acted on it. Every school community we get on side could help to save even more young lives.

In the UK the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international suicide helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.

Follow us on Twitter via @GuardianTeach, like us on Facebook, and join the Guardian Teacher Network the latest articles direct to your inbox

Looking for a teaching job? Or perhaps you need to recruit school staff? Take a look at Guardian Jobs, the education specialist.

Losing a child to suicide is devastating. Schools can help prevent these tragedies

The tragedy of losing a child is unimaginable. Losing a child to suicide is worse. Those who have endured such horrors will know the grief is utterly excruciating. It’s no wonder that parents who have lost children in such a way become serious risks of suicide themselves.

My son Patrick was 25 when he took his own life, although I believe his suicidal thoughts began in childhood. It’s distressing to think that an average of four schoolchildren take their own lives every week in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The majority are teenagers, but some are still in primary school – and because the official statistics don’t recognise suicides by children under 10, that number is likely to be even higher.


The 200 children lost to suicide each year could be dozens more. E​ven if it’s dozens less it’s still a national scandal

Coroners seem particularly reluctant to find suicide verdicts in the case of children, perhaps in their desire to spare families further pain. Such is the stigma that still exists around suicide. The requirement to meet the criminal standard of proof, “beyond reasonable doubt”, also makes it difficult for them to reach this conclusion. The charity Papyrus, which works to prevent young suicide and of which I am now a trustee, continues to press the Department of Justice for change. Only when a suicide verdict can be recorded on the “balance of probabilities” will the true scale be revealed.

As things currently stand, the 200 schoolchildren lost to suicide each year in the UK could be dozens more. Even if it was dozens less, it would still be a national scandal. Those of us in the club that no one wants to join are aware that life will never be the same again. Yet the grief is not confined to parents – the suicide of a child has a devastating effect on siblings, family, friends and entire school communities.

Schools are in a unique position to help prevent these tragedies. Children spend much of their waking hours at school, so teachers are in the right place to recognise that a child might be at risk. But without effective training or guidance, the opportunity for such interventions are lost. So while a recent YouGov survey commissioned by Papyrus found that more than 10% of teaching professionals said a student shares suicidal thoughts with them at least once a term, only half felt confident they could provide adequate support.

As part of its current campaign – Save the Class of 2018 – which aims to increase teacher awareness of suicide prevention, Papyrus has created a free guide (pdf) to give schools and colleges the information they need to support students who might be at risk of suicide.

It includes guidance on prevention, such as how to improve connectedness, developing a suicide prevention policy, and helpful and unhelpful language to use. There’s intervention advice, which covers what to do when you have a concern, what to look out for, and how to ask about suicide. It covers what to do after a pupil has taken their own life, how to inform and support other students, and how to communicate with the media.

The guide is very deliberately aimed at the whole school community, because it could be a teacher, secretary, dinner lady or support assistant who first identifies a vulnerable student. The challenge now is making all of our 20,000-plus UK schools aware of it.

Of course, this is not just a school issue, but a societal one. Suicide prevention is everyone’s business, but human nature tends to persuade us, until fate intervenes, that tragedies like suicide affect other people and not us.

Had I, as a headteacher, been told just how critical it was to have a suicide prevention plan in place, I’m pretty confident that I would have acted on it. Every school community we get on side could help to save even more young lives.

In the UK the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international suicide helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.

Follow us on Twitter via @GuardianTeach, like us on Facebook, and join the Guardian Teacher Network the latest articles direct to your inbox

Looking for a teaching job? Or perhaps you need to recruit school staff? Take a look at Guardian Jobs, the education specialist.

Commuters urged to make small talk to help prevent railway suicides

Commuters and travellers have been urged to strike up conversations with vulnerable people near railway tracks as part of a campaign to prevent suicide.

Small Talk Saves Lives aims to give the public the confidence to trust their instincts and take action if they see someone who may be at risk.

The campaign, which has been launched by Samaritans, the British Transport Police, Network Rail and train operators, promotes the message that suicidal thoughts can be temporary and interrupted by a simple question.

The initiative commissioned a survey of 5,000 passengers, which found that the majority are willing to play a role in stopping suicides.

More than four out of five (83%) passengers said they would approach someone who may be suicidal if they knew the signs to look for, what to say and that they would not make the situation worse. Nearly nine out of 10 (89%) thought someone in need of support would find it hard to ask for help.

Warning signs could include a person standing alone and isolated, looking distant or withdrawn, staying on a platform a long time without boarding a train, or displaying something out of the ordinary in their behaviour or appearance.

Small Talk Saves Lives stresses there is no single sign or combination of behaviours that mean a person is suicidal, but if passengers spot something that “doesn’t feel right” they should take action by starting a conversation or alerting rail staff or the police.

About 273 people died in suicides on Britain’s railways in 2016/17, according to Office of Rail and Road figures.

Ian Stevens, who manages Network Rail’s suicide prevention programme, said: “If it were your loved one, a daughter or son, husband or wife who was going through an emotional crisis, wouldn’t you hope that somebody took the time to stop and ask if they were OK?”

[embedded content]

Ruth Sutherland, the chief executive of Samaritans, said suicide was everybody’s business and claimed “any one of us could have an opportunity to save a life”.

She added that the skills to save lives on the railways could be applied to many other situations and she hopes the campaign starts “a much wider conversation about how suicide is preventable”.

Samaritans told the story of Sarah Wilson, who was 28 when she decided to take her life. “Someone talking to me and showing they cared about me helped to interrupt my suicidal thoughts and that gave them time to subside. The more that people understand that suicide is preventable, the better,” she said.

In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14. Other international suicide helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.

Brexit won’t help the NHS, it will destroy it | Jonathan Lis

Of the lies told during the Brexit referendum – and there were many – perhaps the most egregious was the claim that we could spend an extra £350m on the NHS as a result of leaving the EU. It has gained unique notoriety not simply because the figure was demonstrably false, or even because Brexit will shrink the economy rather than free up vital funds, but rather because of its calculated emotional manipulation. We value the NHS more than any other institution. As the defining icon of the post-war consensus and intrinsic component of our national story, it unites Britons across political, geographical and class divides. Crippled by austerity, staff shortages and low morale, our NHS is also on its knees. But far from offering a helping hand, Brexit threatens to bring it down altogether.

A report in the Lancet offers a comprehensive – and bleak – analysis of the dangers. Brexit stands to damage staffing, funding, access to new products and technology, and standards of public health. The softer the Brexit, the lower the harm – but as Theresa May’s speech in Florence made clear, the government still plans to leave the single market, customs union and other EU bodies after a transition ends in 2021, no matter the cost.


Telling NHS workers they can help us, but forget about ever settling or becoming British, may not prove attractive

The key area of risk is also the central plank of Brexit: restrictions on free movement of people. This is no coincidence. While millions of leave voters expressed the concern that immigration was posing an intolerable burden on public services, studies have repeatedly indicated that it in fact keeps them afloat. The NHS and adult social care employs 150,000 EU nationals; 10% of our doctors graduated in EEA countries. The government continually promises that the “brightest and best” will always be welcome, but this elitist and divisive slogan fails even on its own terms. Britain’s most vulnerable patients do not simply depend on EU surgeons, GPs and nurses, but on an army of notionally “unskilled” carers, porters and cleaners who help to keep people alive.

Even if the government prioritises NHS workers in its post-Brexit immigration strategy, grave damage has already been done. This week, a molecular biologist in Madrid told me that London was his favourite city, but its political climate now too hostile to consider returning. The figures bear out the anecdote: while 40,000 nursing positions currently lie vacant, the number of EU nurses registering to work here has dropped by a staggering 96%. While fewer arrive, more depart. About 10,000 EU nationals have left the NHS in the past year.

Britain no longer feels like a welcoming place for foreigners. Let alone the shame, we should also feel profound alarm. We do not have the doctors and nurses that we need as it is; and even if the government was adequately investing in training – which it isn’t – we would still have no time to replace those Europeans who either intend to leave or never even come. To add idiocy to injury, the recently leaked government proposals on immigration specified time-limited work permits, with permanent residency a possibility only for the most highly skilled. Telling NHS workers that they can help us for a few years, but probably forget about ever settling or becoming British, may not prove an attractive offer.

The problem for the NHS is that unlike, say, the single market or Irish border issue, it is not in itself an EU competence and will not be negotiated at the Brexit table. What we do with our healthcare has always been a matter for us alone. But as with so much else in Brexit, problems both predictable and previously unforeseen are threatening key aspects of our national infrastructure.

While remain campaigners stressed the risks to the NHS of reduced immigration and a diminished economy, few mentioned the €3.5bn supplied by the European Investment Bank to the NHS since 2001, or publicised the dangers to cancer patients of leaving the European Atomic Energy Community or the European Medicines Agency. The government, for its part, is so consumed with fire-fighting that it is neglecting to recognise the NHS for what it is: one of Brexit’s key issues, and potentially its most high-profile piece of collateral damage.

Like the ravens at the Tower of London whose departure, in legend, presages the nation’s fall, the NHS’s success – or collapse – is also Britain’s. Brexit’s architects knew that people would respond to appeals to help it; faced with a false prospectus, the public duly chose British hospitals over Brussels bureaucrats. Those same voters may yet punish Brexit’s leaders, but the national consequences will profoundly eclipse any political ones. After all, the risk of deploying your most treasured family heirloom as a political football is not just that it could ultimately land in your own goal – but that in your recklessness, you may irreparably smash it.

Jonathan Lis is deputy director of the thinktank British Influence

Moving every half hour could help limit effects of sedentary lifestyle, says study

Moving your body at least every half an hour could help to limit the harmful effects of desk jobs and other sedentary lifestyles, research has revealed.

The study found that both greater overall time spent inactive in a day, and longer periods of inactivity were linked to an increased risk of death.

“If you sit at work all day, if you sit at home a lot, then you should be really mindful of trying to take a break from your sitting habits as often as possible – at least every 30 minutes,” said Keith Diaz, co-author of the study from Columbia University Medical Center. “Even if you exercise, you still should be mindful of taking breaks and be moving throughout the day, because exercise is not enough to overcome the risks of sitting, and sitting in long bouts.”

Writing in the journal the Annals of Internal Medicine, Diaz and colleagues from seven US institutions describe how they kitted out nearly 8,000 individuals aged 45 or over from across the US with activity trackers between 2009 and 2013.

Each participant wore the fitness tracker for at least four days during a period of one week, with deaths of participants tracked until September 2015.

The results reveal that, on average, participants were inactive for 12.3 hours of a 16 hour waking day, with each period of inactivity lasting an average of 11.4 minutes.

After taking into account a host of factors including age, sex, education, smoking and high blood pressure, the team found that both the overall length of daily inactivity and the length of each bout of sedentary behaviour were linked to changes in the risk of death from any cause. The associations held even among participants undertaking moderate to vigorous physical activity.

Those who were inactive for 13.2 hours a day had a risk of death 2.6 times that of those spending less than 11.5 hours a day inactive, while those whose bouts of inactivity lasted on average 12.4 minutes or more had a risk of death almost twice that of those who were inactive for an average of less than 7.7 minutes at a time.

The team then looked at the interaction between the two measures of inactivity, finding the risk of death was greater for those who had both high overall levels of inactivity (12.5 hours a day or more) and long average bouts of sedentary behaviour (10 minutes or more), than for those who had high levels of just one of the measures.

“We were trying to understand what is the worst feature of a person’s sitting habits – is it how many hours a day you sit, or is it sitting in these long bouts,” said Diaz. “Unfortunately the message is more mixed … it looks like both are bad for you.”

Further analysis looking at how participants split up their stints of inactivity found that those who kept most of their bouts to under 30 minutes at a time had the lowest risk of death while the team also discovered that the longer, more frequent and more intense the breaks from inactivity the better.

While the study was funded by the US National Institutes of Health and Coca-Cola, neither were involved in the research.

The latest study is not the first to probe the health impacts of prolonged periods of inactivity, but the team say their use of activity trackers is a step up as it does not rely on self-reporting, which is less accurate.

But, they note, the study does not show that inactivity causes death, and the tracker could not tell whether individuals were sitting or just standing still.

What’s more, factors such as smoking status and blood pressure were only captured once, and the activity trackers were only worn over one week, meaning that changes in the health or behaviour of participants over time was not taken into account.

Nevertheless, the team say the study underscores the need for individuals to take breaks from inactivity. “The longer the better, the more intense the better,” said Diaz.

Dr Mike Loosemore from the Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health, who was not involved in the research, said sedentary behaviour was contributing to increasing levels of obesity, adding that being more active did not require huge efforts.

“You can do simple things like stand up to answer the phone, maybe instead of getting a full glass of water from the kitchen get half a glass and then go twice as often,” he said. “Just simple things that every half hour give you an excuse to stand up and move around a bit.”

Moving every half hour could help limit effects of sedentary lifestyle, says study

Moving your body at least every half an hour could help to limit the harmful effects of desk jobs and other sedentary lifestyles, research has revealed.

The study found that both greater overall time spent inactive in a day, and longer periods of inactivity were linked to an increased risk of death.

“If you sit at work all day, if you sit at home a lot, then you should be really mindful of trying to take a break from your sitting habits as often as possible – at least every 30 minutes,” said Keith Diaz, co-author of the study from Columbia University Medical Center. “Even if you exercise, you still should be mindful of taking breaks and be moving throughout the day, because exercise is not enough to overcome the risks of sitting, and sitting in long bouts.”

Writing in the journal the Annals of Internal Medicine, Diaz and colleagues from seven US institutions describe how they kitted out nearly 8,000 individuals aged 45 or over from across the US with activity trackers between 2009 and 2013.

Each participant wore the fitness tracker for at least four days during a period of one week, with deaths of participants tracked until September 2015.

The results reveal that, on average, participants were inactive for 12.3 hours of a 16 hour waking day, with each period of inactivity lasting an average of 11.4 minutes.

After taking into account a host of factors including age, sex, education, smoking and high blood pressure, the team found that both the overall length of daily inactivity and the length of each bout of sedentary behaviour were linked to changes in the risk of death from any cause. The associations held even among participants undertaking moderate to vigorous physical activity.

Those who were inactive for 13.2 hours a day had a risk of death 2.6 times that of those spending less than 11.5 hours a day inactive, while those whose bouts of inactivity lasted on average 12.4 minutes or more had a risk of death almost twice that of those who were inactive for an average of less than 7.7 minutes at a time.

The team then looked at the interaction between the two measures of inactivity, finding the risk of death was greater for those who had both high overall levels of inactivity (12.5 hours a day or more) and long average bouts of sedentary behaviour (10 minutes or more), than for those who had high levels of just one of the measures.

“We were trying to understand what is the worst feature of a person’s sitting habits – is it how many hours a day you sit, or is it sitting in these long bouts,” said Diaz. “Unfortunately the message is more mixed … it looks like both are bad for you.”

Further analysis looking at how participants split up their stints of inactivity found that those who kept most of their bouts to under 30 minutes at a time had the lowest risk of death while the team also discovered that the longer, more frequent and more intense the breaks from inactivity the better.

While the study was funded by the US National Institutes of Health and Coca-Cola, neither were involved in the research.

The latest study is not the first to probe the health impacts of prolonged periods of inactivity, but the team say their use of activity trackers is a step up as it does not rely on self-reporting, which is less accurate.

But, they note, the study does not show that inactivity causes death, and the tracker could not tell whether individuals were sitting or just standing still.

What’s more, factors such as smoking status and blood pressure were only captured once, and the activity trackers were only worn over one week, meaning that changes in the health or behaviour of participants over time was not taken into account.

Nevertheless, the team say the study underscores the need for individuals to take breaks from inactivity. “The longer the better, the more intense the better,” said Diaz.

Dr Mike Loosemore from the Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health, who was not involved in the research, said sedentary behaviour was contributing to increasing levels of obesity, adding that being more active did not require huge efforts.

“You can do simple things like stand up to answer the phone, maybe instead of getting a full glass of water from the kitchen get half a glass and then go twice as often,” he said. “Just simple things that every half hour give you an excuse to stand up and move around a bit.”

Moving every half hour could help limit effects of sedentary lifestyle, says study

Moving your body at least every half an hour could help to limit the harmful effects of desk jobs and other sedentary lifestyles, research has revealed.

The study found that both greater overall time spent inactive in a day, and longer periods of inactivity were linked to an increased risk of death.

“If you sit at work all day, if you sit at home a lot, then you should be really mindful of trying to take a break from your sitting habits as often as possible – at least every 30 minutes,” said Keith Diaz, co-author of the study from Columbia University Medical Center. “Even if you exercise, you still should be mindful of taking breaks and be moving throughout the day, because exercise is not enough to overcome the risks of sitting, and sitting in long bouts.”

Writing in the journal the Annals of Internal Medicine, Diaz and colleagues from seven US institutions describe how they kitted out nearly 8,000 individuals aged 45 or over from across the US with activity trackers between 2009 and 2013.

Each participant wore the fitness tracker for at least four days during a period of one week, with deaths of participants tracked until September 2015.

The results reveal that, on average, participants were inactive for 12.3 hours of a 16 hour waking day, with each period of inactivity lasting an average of 11.4 minutes.

After taking into account a host of factors including age, sex, education, smoking and high blood pressure, the team found that both the overall length of daily inactivity and the length of each bout of sedentary behaviour were linked to changes in the risk of death from any cause. The associations held even among participants undertaking moderate to vigorous physical activity.

Those who were inactive for 13.2 hours a day had a risk of death 2.6 times that of those spending less than 11.5 hours a day inactive, while those whose bouts of inactivity lasted on average 12.4 minutes or more had a risk of death almost twice that of those who were inactive for an average of less than 7.7 minutes at a time.

The team then looked at the interaction between the two measures of inactivity, finding the risk of death was greater for those who had both high overall levels of inactivity (12.5 hours a day or more) and long average bouts of sedentary behaviour (10 minutes or more), than for those who had high levels of just one of the measures.

“We were trying to understand what is the worst feature of a person’s sitting habits – is it how many hours a day you sit, or is it sitting in these long bouts,” said Diaz. “Unfortunately the message is more mixed … it looks like both are bad for you.”

Further analysis looking at how participants split up their stints of inactivity found that those who kept most of their bouts to under 30 minutes at a time had the lowest risk of death while the team also discovered that the longer, more frequent and more intense the breaks from inactivity the better.

While the study was funded by the US National Institutes of Health and Coca-Cola, neither were involved in the research.

The latest study is not the first to probe the health impacts of prolonged periods of inactivity, but the team say their use of activity trackers is a step up as it does not rely on self-reporting, which is less accurate.

But, they note, the study does not show that inactivity causes death, and the tracker could not tell whether individuals were sitting or just standing still.

What’s more, factors such as smoking status and blood pressure were only captured once, and the activity trackers were only worn over one week, meaning that changes in the health or behaviour of participants over time was not taken into account.

Nevertheless, the team say the study underscores the need for individuals to take breaks from inactivity. “The longer the better, the more intense the better,” said Diaz.

Dr Mike Loosemore from the Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health, who was not involved in the research, said sedentary behaviour was contributing to increasing levels of obesity, adding that being more active did not require huge efforts.

“You can do simple things like stand up to answer the phone, maybe instead of getting a full glass of water from the kitchen get half a glass and then go twice as often,” he said. “Just simple things that every half hour give you an excuse to stand up and move around a bit.”

Moving every half hour could help limit effects of sedentary lifestyle, says study

Moving your body at least every half an hour could help to limit the harmful effects of desk jobs and other sedentary lifestyles, research has revealed.

The study found that both greater overall time spent inactive in a day, and longer periods of inactivity were linked to an increased risk of death.

“If you sit at work all day, if you sit at home a lot, then you should be really mindful of trying to take a break from your sitting habits as often as possible – at least every 30 minutes,” said Keith Diaz, co-author of the study from Columbia University Medical Center. “Even if you exercise, you still should be mindful of taking breaks and be moving throughout the day, because exercise is not enough to overcome the risks of sitting, and sitting in long bouts.”

Writing in the journal the Annals of Internal Medicine, Diaz and colleagues from seven US institutions describe how they kitted out nearly 8,000 individuals aged 45 or over from across the US with activity trackers between 2009 and 2013.

Each participant wore the fitness tracker for at least four days during a period of one week, with deaths of participants tracked until September 2015.

The results reveal that, on average, participants were inactive for 12.3 hours of a 16 hour waking day, with each period of inactivity lasting an average of 11.4 minutes.

After taking into account a host of factors including age, sex, education, smoking and high blood pressure, the team found that both the overall length of daily inactivity and the length of each bout of sedentary behaviour were linked to changes in the risk of death from any cause. The associations held even among participants undertaking moderate to vigorous physical activity.

Those who were inactive for 13.2 hours a day had a risk of death 2.6 times that of those spending less than 11.5 hours a day inactive, while those whose bouts of inactivity lasted on average 12.4 minutes or more had a risk of death almost twice that of those who were inactive for an average of less than 7.7 minutes at a time.

The team then looked at the interaction between the two measures of inactivity, finding the risk of death was greater for those who had both high overall levels of inactivity (12.5 hours a day or more) and long average bouts of sedentary behaviour (10 minutes or more), than for those who had high levels of just one of the measures.

“We were trying to understand what is the worst feature of a person’s sitting habits – is it how many hours a day you sit, or is it sitting in these long bouts,” said Diaz. “Unfortunately the message is more mixed … it looks like both are bad for you.”

Further analysis looking at how participants split up their stints of inactivity found that those who kept most of their bouts to under 30 minutes at a time had the lowest risk of death while the team also discovered that the longer, more frequent and more intense the breaks from inactivity the better.

While the study was funded by the US National Institutes of Health and Coca-Cola, neither were involved in the research.

The latest study is not the first to probe the health impacts of prolonged periods of inactivity, but the team say their use of activity trackers is a step up as it does not rely on self-reporting, which is less accurate.

But, they note, the study does not show that inactivity causes death, and the tracker could not tell whether individuals were sitting or just standing still.

What’s more, factors such as smoking status and blood pressure were only captured once, and the activity trackers were only worn over one week, meaning that changes in the health or behaviour of participants over time was not taken into account.

Nevertheless, the team say the study underscores the need for individuals to take breaks from inactivity. “The longer the better, the more intense the better,” said Diaz.

Dr Mike Loosemore from the Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health, who was not involved in the research, said sedentary behaviour was contributing to increasing levels of obesity, adding that being more active did not require huge efforts.

“You can do simple things like stand up to answer the phone, maybe instead of getting a full glass of water from the kitchen get half a glass and then go twice as often,” he said. “Just simple things that every half hour give you an excuse to stand up and move around a bit.”

Moving every half hour could help limit effects of sedentary lifestyle, says study

Moving your body at least every half an hour could help to limit the harmful effects of desk jobs and other sedentary lifestyles, research has revealed.

The study found that both greater overall time spent inactive in a day, and longer periods of inactivity were linked to an increased risk of death.

“If you sit at work all day, if you sit at home a lot, then you should be really mindful of trying to take a break from your sitting habits as often as possible – at least every 30 minutes,” said Keith Diaz, co-author of the study from Columbia University Medical Center. “Even if you exercise, you still should be mindful of taking breaks and be moving throughout the day, because exercise is not enough to overcome the risks of sitting, and sitting in long bouts.”

Writing in the journal the Annals of Internal Medicine, Diaz and colleagues from seven US institutions describe how they kitted out nearly 8,000 individuals aged 45 or over from across the US with activity trackers between 2009 and 2013.

Each participant wore the fitness tracker for at least four days during a period of one week, with deaths of participants tracked until September 2015.

The results reveal that, on average, participants were inactive for 12.3 hours of a 16 hour waking day, with each period of inactivity lasting an average of 11.4 minutes.

After taking into account a host of factors including age, sex, education, smoking and high blood pressure, the team found that both the overall length of daily inactivity and the length of each bout of sedentary behaviour were linked to changes in the risk of death from any cause. The associations held even among participants undertaking moderate to vigorous physical activity.

Those who were inactive for 13.2 hours a day had a risk of death 2.6 times that of those spending less than 11.5 hours a day inactive, while those whose bouts of inactivity lasted on average 12.4 minutes or more had a risk of death almost twice that of those who were inactive for an average of less than 7.7 minutes at a time.

The team then looked at the interaction between the two measures of inactivity, finding the risk of death was greater for those who had both high overall levels of inactivity (12.5 hours a day or more) and long average bouts of sedentary behaviour (10 minutes or more), than for those who had high levels of just one of the measures.

“We were trying to understand what is the worst feature of a person’s sitting habits – is it how many hours a day you sit, or is it sitting in these long bouts,” said Diaz. “Unfortunately the message is more mixed … it looks like both are bad for you.”

Further analysis looking at how participants split up their stints of inactivity found that those who kept most of their bouts to under 30 minutes at a time had the lowest risk of death while the team also discovered that the longer, more frequent and more intense the breaks from inactivity the better.

While the study was funded by the US National Institutes of Health and Coca-Cola, neither were involved in the research.

The latest study is not the first to probe the health impacts of prolonged periods of inactivity, but the team say their use of activity trackers is a step up as it does not rely on self-reporting, which is less accurate.

But, they note, the study does not show that inactivity causes death, and the tracker could not tell whether individuals were sitting or just standing still.

What’s more, factors such as smoking status and blood pressure were only captured once, and the activity trackers were only worn over one week, meaning that changes in the health or behaviour of participants over time was not taken into account.

Nevertheless, the team say the study underscores the need for individuals to take breaks from inactivity. “The longer the better, the more intense the better,” said Diaz.

Dr Mike Loosemore from the Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health, who was not involved in the research, said sedentary behaviour was contributing to increasing levels of obesity, adding that being more active did not require huge efforts.

“You can do simple things like stand up to answer the phone, maybe instead of getting a full glass of water from the kitchen get half a glass and then go twice as often,” he said. “Just simple things that every half hour give you an excuse to stand up and move around a bit.”

Moving every half hour could help limit effects of sedentary lifestyle, says study

Moving your body at least every half an hour could help to limit the harmful effects of desk jobs and other sedentary lifestyles, research has revealed.

The study found that both greater overall time spent inactive in a day, and longer periods of inactivity were linked to an increased risk of death.

“If you sit at work all day, if you sit at home a lot, then you should be really mindful of trying to take a break from your sitting habits as often as possible – at least every 30 minutes,” said Keith Diaz, co-author of the study from Columbia University Medical Center. “Even if you exercise, you still should be mindful of taking breaks and be moving throughout the day, because exercise is not enough to overcome the risks of sitting, and sitting in long bouts.”

Writing in the journal the Annals of Internal Medicine, Diaz and colleagues from seven US institutions describe how they kitted out nearly 8,000 individuals aged 45 or over from across the US with activity trackers between 2009 and 2013.

Each participant wore the fitness tracker for at least four days during a period of one week, with deaths of participants tracked until September 2015.

The results reveal that, on average, participants were inactive for 12.3 hours of a 16 hour waking day, with each period of inactivity lasting an average of 11.4 minutes.

After taking into account a host of factors including age, sex, education, smoking and high blood pressure, the team found that both the overall length of daily inactivity and the length of each bout of sedentary behaviour were linked to changes in the risk of death from any cause. The associations held even among participants undertaking moderate to vigorous physical activity.

Those who were inactive for 13.2 hours a day had a risk of death 2.6 times that of those spending less than 11.5 hours a day inactive, while those whose bouts of inactivity lasted on average 12.4 minutes or more had a risk of death almost twice that of those who were inactive for an average of less than 7.7 minutes at a time.

The team then looked at the interaction between the two measures of inactivity, finding the risk of death was greater for those who had both high overall levels of inactivity (12.5 hours a day or more) and long average bouts of sedentary behaviour (10 minutes or more), than for those who had high levels of just one of the measures.

“We were trying to understand what is the worst feature of a person’s sitting habits – is it how many hours a day you sit, or is it sitting in these long bouts,” said Diaz. “Unfortunately the message is more mixed … it looks like both are bad for you.”

Further analysis looking at how participants split up their stints of inactivity found that those who kept most of their bouts to under 30 minutes at a time had the lowest risk of death while the team also discovered that the longer, more frequent and more intense the breaks from inactivity the better.

While the study was funded by the US National Institutes of Health and Coca-Cola, neither were involved in the research.

The latest study is not the first to probe the health impacts of prolonged periods of inactivity, but the team say their use of activity trackers is a step up as it does not rely on self-reporting, which is less accurate.

But, they note, the study does not show that inactivity causes death, and the tracker could not tell whether individuals were sitting or just standing still.

What’s more, factors such as smoking status and blood pressure were only captured once, and the activity trackers were only worn over one week, meaning that changes in the health or behaviour of participants over time was not taken into account.

Nevertheless, the team say the study underscores the need for individuals to take breaks from inactivity. “The longer the better, the more intense the better,” said Diaz.

Dr Mike Loosemore from the Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health, who was not involved in the research, said sedentary behaviour was contributing to increasing levels of obesity, adding that being more active did not require huge efforts.

“You can do simple things like stand up to answer the phone, maybe instead of getting a full glass of water from the kitchen get half a glass and then go twice as often,” he said. “Just simple things that every half hour give you an excuse to stand up and move around a bit.”