Yes, Your Desk Job Could Quite Literally Be Killing You

Sitting all day is taking a detrimental toll on the health of office workers—here's how to include more activity in your day


Gina Hutchings—Research shows that people of working age spend approximately 50 to 60 percent of their days on sedentary pursuits. For most, desk jobs are an inevitable reality, but more and more studies are finding that they come at a very high cost.

Related: Researchers: Don’t Sit for More than 6 Hours During Your Workday

Findings from a systematic review and meta-analysis conducted by researchers from Loughborough University and the University of Leicester concluded that those who held employment where they were seated for long periods had a 112 percent increase in diabetes and a 147 percent increase in cardiovascular disease, leading to a 49 percent increase in mortality.

In other words, for those working a desk job — your workplace could literally be killing you.

In fact, inactivity is now listed as the fourth biggest killer of adults by the World Health Organisation.

Some employers and larger organizations are aware of the importance of physical activity in the workplace. After all, a healthier work force leads to more productivity and a reduction in sick leave.

Some offices have gone as far as building gyms or implementing exercise classes into the working day. One workplace in London even built a cycle ramp leading down to a basement with bike racks and relaxation facilities, including a basketball court, in the hope of encouraging workers to incorporate activity and relaxation into their working routines, and therefore preventing the health risks associated with office-based work, and increasing motivation and productivity for the company.

“We have found that more companies are looking at not just the space and cost per foot for an office in a city, but at the facilities it offers for a happy workforce. Buildings with gyms, or close proximity to outdoor areas like parks or rivers are really popular,” said Eugene O’Sullivan, director or London office brokers Morgan Pryce.

As a nation we are working longer and longer hours. And  our growing relationship with technology means more often than not, we’re connected and available.

No doubt, the stresses of the work day combined with family commitments and other obligations make it increasingly difficult to find additional time for exercise. However, you can use the following practical tips to seamlessly incorporate physical activity into your day-to-day routine.

Your life just might depend on it.


1. Take the long way. If you commute to work by bus or train consider hopping off a stop earlier and walking the remainder of the journey. Maybe take the stairs, or stand up from time to time. And yes, even just standing up can help alleviate some of the negative effects of inactivity.

Some people are removing their chairs altogether, but even standing up for a certain amount of the day has been shown to help physical health and office productivity enormously. Put objects or documents you use regularly out of reach of your desk, so you have to stand up to retrieve or use them, or position your desk away from the printer or phone. If you can, use a cordless phone or mobile, so you can walk while talking.

2. Try a new chair. If you do not fancy standing all day or your office desks are not suitable for this then consider switching your chair to an exercise ball. It can help to  strengthen posture, stimulate circulation and prevent you from slouching. Or, you could even try a yoga aid like a stability cushion or gym accessory, which give your muscles a gentle workout while ensuring you remain alert and more industrious throughout the day.

Related: Exercise at Your Desk: 5 Quick Fitness Apps

3. Organize standing meetings. Maximize the productivity of group work and minimize the sitting around by conducting meetings without chairs. Not only will this inject some vital additional activity and exercise into your day, it will encourage participants to get to the point more quickly, and be more articulate and succinct with what they say, meaning meetings are more efficient and successful.


4. Break for lunch. You have heard it before I am sure, but don’t eat at your desk. Use your lunch break to get outside and go for a walk. Not only will this get you moving, but it might even help you avoid the all-too-common afternoon slump.

Fresh air and an elevated heart rate will refresh your body and brain, and keep you motivated well into the afternoon. Remember, food can have a lot to do with your body’s health and well-being. Obviously, if you are moving around less you should eat less, but also try to choose foods that are broken down easily by the body, and give your brain maximum energy.

5. Skip the snacks. Munching on sugary treats may offer some semblance of reward during a long day staring at a computer, but they could lead to weight gain and the constant roller coaster of sugar highs and lows seriously impacts productivity, not to mention increases fatigue.

Sip on water instead: drinking water throughout the day increases concentration, as well as helps to prevent those pesky mid-afternoon chocolate cravings. Of course no one is pretending that water is a real substitute for a sweet treat, but by adding some citrus fruit slices into your water, you can still enjoy the taste, while keeping your body hydrated and healthy.

“70 percent of the human brain is water. It’s astonishing to think that we work hard all day using our minds but don’t replenish that water supply half as much as we should," said Tom Irving, a nutritionist with Discount Supplements. "We tend to forget out bodies need water to function,”


6. Don’t skip lunch. It’s tempting to work through your lunch break or eat out with clients and co-workers, but preparing a packed lunch that is appealing and has variety will encourage you to take a break and eat. Plus, knowing you spent extra time preparing food will motivate you to eat what you brought with you, as you won’t want to waste it.

Stuck for ideas? Check out these healthy lunches you’ll actually want to eat.

Working hard and achieving results is something that should be admired and celebrated, but it is vital not to let the pursuit of success at work compromise your health or well-being — focusing on ways to stay healthy and active while maintaining an intensive office routine is paramount to a balanced and productive lifestyle.

Gina Hutchings is a qualified journalist living and working in London, UK. Gina is best known for her writing on women in business, females in the work place and juggling home and work expectations. She has over 12 years of experience in the marketing commercial property, IT and finance sectors. Follow her on Twitter: @Hutchings_Gina

More Reading: 
12 Exercises You Can Do While Sitting Down
One Easy Way to Offset the Negative Effects of Sitting
Walking Just a Few Minutes a Day Could Combat Sitting Disease