Offset the Health Risks of Sitting and Be More Productive

November 30, 2018

Three office workers stand to collaborate
Office workers spend hour sitting at their desks and in meetings, but it's healt

Three office workers stand to collaborate and reduce the health risks of sitting too much.

John Rossheim

If you're like many people, you spend hour after hour every workday sitting at a desk. It's no longer news that the risks of sitting too much include serious harm to your health. But our habits are deeply ingrained, and so are our company cultures. We might as well accept the consequences of our sedentary work ways, right?

Wrong — and that's good news! There are many ways to inject small but effective doses of physical activity into your workday at little or no cost, with no loss of productivity. Here's some insight into the unhealthy pitfalls of office life and some tips to stay ahead of them.

The Workplace Sitting Standard

The average American office worker spends 10 hours per day in a chair and should replace at least two of those hours with standing or walking, according to research in the Washington Post.

Most of our workstations are designed solely for sitting, so that's how we work. Sometimes the most exercise we get from 9 to 5 is putting down one device and picking up another. That's not exactly a recipe for healthy living.

Health Risks of Sitting

Without enough activity, many serious diseases loom. Sitting too much may increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and some cancers, according to a 2018 study in Health Psychology and Behavioral Medicine. The risks of sitting too much add up to nearly 200 deaths per 100,000 people over the course of their careers, according to a 2018 study in the American Journal of Public Health. Imagine, though, how easily that number could be impacted if more people made a conscious effort to move around during the day.

How to Stand Up for Health and Productivity

Here are seven doable changes you can make to your workday to help you move around and improve your health.

  • Next time you pick up the phone to call someone in your office, put it down. Instead, walk over to your colleague's workstation and have a face-to-face chat.
  • Suggest stand-up meetings when possible.
  • If you have a laptop at work, bring it to a place in the office where you can work comfortably standing up. The top of a filing cabinet often works.
  • Avoid taking breaks at your desk. Invite a friend to stand up or walk around with you on breaks or around lunchtime.
  • Speak with human resources or your facilities department about getting a standing desk.
  • When you must be seated, sit properly in an ergonomically sound chair.
  • Many people find that they can stimulate their creativity by taking a stroll. The next time you find yourself stuck on a problem at your desk, try going for a five-minute walk outdoors and see what solutions bubble up.
  • The keys to health through physical activity are twofold: first, sit less; second, get regular exercise — more than just a walk down the hall, according to a New York Times report.

You Can Make a Change

Are your managers skeptical of your efforts to sit less and how they might affect your productivity? You may sway them with this research study in BMC Public Health, which concludes that greater physical activity is correlated with better mental well-being and productivity. If you feel your office has room to improve upon employee health, be the champion for change and start the conversation.

Now, gather together your like-minded coworkers and give yourselves a standing ovation for making your work day healthier!

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