How Office Workers Can Reduce How Much They Sit Down

You probably already know how bad sitting is for your health. Health-related issues caused by too much sitting can range from obesity to deep vein thrombosis, heart disease and metabolic syndrome – even a shortened life span.

Yes it is true – sitting for extended periods of time can cause an early death. In a recent study of 123,000 Americans, the death rate was 20% higher in men that sat for six hours per day than it was for those only sitting for three hours at a time; for women, the difference was 40%.

So let’s translate this into years. If you sit for an average of at least three hours per day during your life, you’ll die about two years sooner. Add in a few hours of watching TV after work and you’ll shave off an additional 1.4 years. So your desk job and watching TV will take you to your grave about 3.5 years sooner than it would have had you reduced the amount of time you sat.

O.K., so we know how bad prolonged sitting is for us, but when we have a job that requires sitting, what can we do to sit less? For one, change your work habits. You shouldn’t sit for over two hours at one time without taking a short 5-minute standing or walking break. Set an online timer on your computer to remind you when it is time to get up and move. Another trick is to use a smaller than normal water glass or coffee cup. That forces you to get up more to get water or coffee.

Second, change your office ergonomics. If you are sitting in a conventional office setting, make some office furnishing changes if your company will allow it. Many companies are letting their employees select either standing or walking treadmill desks. If that is not an option, see if your company will spring for a different chair – one without a back. Stools, kneeling chairs or even big stability balls work great because they force the muscles in your back and hips to strengthen in order to support you. Otherwise you rely on the back of your chair for support and your back muscles eventually lose strength, setting you up for a back injury.

Many companies are starting to pay more attention to office ergonomics as they discover how poorly designed desks and chairs negatively affects workers’ productivity and health. Do your body and your family a favor, ask to implement these changes in your office.