How to be, and why you should be, more active in the workplace


Do you spend most of your working day sitting?  If the answer is yes, then you may be prone to “sitting disease”. 

Sitting for long hours in the office has been identified as a key cause behind most of our sedentary behaviour during the working week, which is a cause for concern as The World Health Organisation ranks physical inactivity as the 4th leading factor in global mortality, behind tobacco and high blood pressure.

Sitting at our desks for prolonged periods of time can lead to bad posture, poor circulation, tiredness and stiffness among other symptoms, which can all be precursors to more serious health risks including obesity and musculoskeletal disease.

NOTE: It is important to note that being physically inactive in your daily life is not the same as being sedentary.  Even if you regularly exercise, you may still be prone to sedentary behaviour.  Katy Bowman, who runs the site nutritiousmovement explains that “Actively sedentary is a new category of people who are fit for one hour but sitting around the rest of the day… You can’t offset 10 hours of stillness with one hour of exercise.”

If you are able to stand for some of your working day, do.  Even though you may feel that you are standing still, you are in fact far less likely to be sedentary.  Often when you’re standing, you will shift weight from foot to foot.  You’re also more likely to move about when you’re on the telephone, for example.  If a standing desk is not a suitable option, every 90 minutes or so, try and stand up for a couple of minutes, maybe to make a photocopy or collect something from the printer, or even to walk across the office to talk with a colleague as opposed to sending an email.  And if you are having a meeting with only a couple of you, why not walk and talk?

As well, try changing up how you sit.  Swap out your chair for an exercise ball or a chair with no armrests, both of which will encourage you to sit straighter.  And whether sitting or standing it’s important that your computer screen should be level with your eyesight, otherwise your head will be tilted down, which can lead to neck and back pain.

During your lunch hour go for a walk, alone or with a colleague, even it’s only around the carpark.  Walking helps stimulate circulation, which is reduced when seated for long periods of time.  It also acts as a natural energiser.

Overall, remember to keep moving.  A great visual reminder, is to keep a pedometer on you.  Nowadays, many smartphones have apps built in, or are available for download.  The daily recommendation is 10,000 steps, which doesn’t necessarily mean you have to walk that distance, but more so generally move that amount.