Sitting Too Much is a Health Hazard: Here are 10 Ways to Move More at Work

Whenever I take the LRT or the bus, my eyes light up the moment I spot an empty seat, and I groan whenever it’s a full house. At work, I spend way too much time tucked into my chair, typing away furiously at my computer. I don’t often get up to use my legs, nor do I enjoy taking the long walk to the pantry to fill up my water bottle. If there’s a meeting, I’d be disappointed if the number of people exceeded the number of chairs available.

Many of our careers require us to be bound to a desk for 8 hours or more a day. In fact, we probably spend more time sitting around than we do sleeping. Don’t believe me? Keep a record of how many hours you’ve slept the last week, and how many hours you were laying your butt on a chair. For me, try as I may, I only average about 5-6 hours of sleep per night, while I spend quite a bit of the day sitting on all sorts of chairs – my comfy desk chair, the not-so-comfy cinema seat, the pseudo-antique hipster restaurant chair, the plastic row of seats on the LRT… you get the gist.

We know sitting too long probably isn’t a good thing. I feel awfully guilty if I’ve been sitting all day. But sitting is so effortless and makes life so much easier that we don’t realise (or ignore) what negative consequences it could cause in the long run. But it’s time for a wake-up call.

Here’s what happens to your body when you sit too much:

Your insulin effectiveness drops 

Insulin helps control the amount of glucose in your blood. When you have high blood sugar, your pancrea will produce more insulin to deal with that. After just one day of prolonged sitting, your inactive muscles don’t respond to insulin as well. When that happens, your body will produce more and more insulin which can lead to diabetes and other diseases in the long run [1].

You burn less calories 

When you sit, you burn only 1 calorie a minute, which is about a third of what you’d burn if you got up and walked [2].


You’ll gain weight 

Enzymes which break down lipids and triglycerides (basically fat) drop when you sit too much. This also causes the levels of HDL (good) cholesterol to go down. When that happens, your muscles start to lose their ability to remove harmful lipo-proteins from your blood and your blood sugar levels rise, which will increase your chances of gaining weight [3].

You might die earlier 

According to this study conducted on more than 220,000 residents in Australia, researchers found a correlation between time spent sitting and higher risk of dying prematurely, even if you exercise regularly. The study found that adults who sat for more than 11 hours a day increased their risk of dying by 40% within 3 years, compared to those who sat for less than 4 hours a day.

You’ll increase your risk of contracting diseases

Researchers analysed 43 studies consisting of 68,936 cancer cases and found that prolonged sitting introduces a risk for certain types of cancer [4]. Another research found that those who spent the most time sitting had a 112% increase in their risk of developing type 2 diabetes [5]. Sitting too much also increases your risk of heart related diseases like cardiovascular disease, chest pain, or heart attack by 125% [6].

While it’s inevitable that some of our jobs require us to be on the computer for several hours a day, it doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it!

Here’s your action plan to get up and move more, while still being productive at the office:

1. Visit the water cooler more often 


Instead of bringing a huge bottle to work, use a glass and regularly take trips to the water cooler to refill your glass. This helps you drink more water and also move more. Plus, you’ll get to take part in water cooler gossip.

2. Have walking meetings 

The next time you have a meeting, schedule it somewhere you can walk laps. Skip the typical coffee and cakes sit-down meeting for a walking one where you get your both your metabolism and brain juices pumping.

3. Take a brisk walk every hour 

This can be a bit tricky as we’re so used to getting lost in our work. So instead of relying on yourself to remember your walk, use our favourite free programme called WorkRave. It basically reminds you to take breaks throughout your workday (and it nags you if you don’t!). If you don’t like WorkRave, there are plenty of other apps available for your smartphone, or computer.

4. Talk instead of email 

Besides being a good excuse for you to get some steps done, talking face to face with someone solves an issue much faster than email (and its host of misunderstandings) can. The next time instead of spending 30 minutes typing up a politically correct response, just walk over to his / her desk and talk it through.

5. Take the stairs


We’re not going to ask you to do it if you work on the 30th floor, but you can always incorporate some stairs into your daily routine. Maybe try walking the last five flights up? Or walking up escalators instead of waiting for it to carry you up? Try to take the stairs whenever you can, it truly helps incorporate more movement into your day.

6. Lobby for a height adjustable desk 


This is the quickest way to get yourself away from sitting on your butt all day. Why don’t we go for a standing desk? Because standing all day isn’t good for your either. Having an adjustable desk helps you switch from sitting to standing in a blink. Try to negotiate with your company to provide you with an adjustable height desk, they aren’t very expensive if you do some DIY.

7. Use the printer furthest away


Find a printer that’s furthest away from you in the office (perhaps even on another floor entirely) and send your documents to print there. You’ll obviously have to get up and go get them.

8. Walk to lunch 

Instead of having a desk lunch and getting your colleagues to tapau for you, take a walk to a lunch spot and eat there instead. The fresh air will do you good, as will the walk. Choose somewhere further away which still serves food fairly quickly so you can have a good walk and get back to to work on time.

9. Stand up whenever you are talking on the phone 

Or even better, pace around whenever you’re talking to a client or a colleague on the phone. If the call lasts forever due to their long-windedness, even better!

10. Stretch

Source: Shelter Publications
Source: Shelter Publications

You’re no stranger to the pains of sitting for too long, typing away and clicking on your mouse. The common result is aches all over for being in the same position all day. Break up your work day by doing some stretches. Need ideas? Refer to the image above.

While we’re not sure exactly how much sitting per day is too much, it’s best to minimise your downtime as much as possible. This research showed that if you sat for less than 3 hours a day, you’ll extend your life by 2 years. That’s a lot, especially when you consider all the other stuff we’re doing that could potentially ruin our health.


Any ideas for how we can incorporate more movement into our lives? Share with us in the comments below or on our Facebook page!


Written by Jolene Foo

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