Does Office Work Promote Sedentary Lifestyles?

by Gloria Farley, RN, BSN, COHN-S
 Ergonomic Service Supervisor
EK Health Services®, Inc. 

Does office work promote sedentary lifestyles? - It doesn't have to!

The increasing rate of obesity in America is typically associate with our sedentary lifestyles—defined as not physically active.  Individuals sit, on average, for 14 hours and 39 minutes per day, mostly at work.  When not sitting, individuals are also considered physically inactive, as 60% of individuals perform less than 2.5 hours of physical activity per week.

There are several health consequences associated with prolonged sitting and a sedentary lifestyle:

  • Higher rates of cardio vascular disease
  • Obesity
  • Increased/higher body mass index
  • Metabolic syndromes
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Deep venous thrombosis
  • Low back disorders

Similarly, prolonged standing can also lead to significant health consequences:

  • Varicose veins
  • Joint damage
  • Foot problems
  • Stroke
  • Heart and circulatory problems
  • Pregnancy difficulties
  • Work-related musculoskeletal disorders to the legs, knees, and lower back due to long periods of low level tension

Prolonged sitting and prolonged standing are both concerns, with their respective health risks.  A responsible approach is to combine activities that require sitting and standing throughout the work day to minimize health hazards.

So, what can be done to address this problem?


  • Get up to take a drink of water (every hour, set a timer)
  • Talk to a co-worker in person instead of email
  • Walk to the printer or at least stand up to use the one beside you
  • Stand when talking on the phone & do leg stretches while chatting
  • Stretch out your lower back each time you get up out of your chair
         Put hands on waist (thumbs forward, fingers behind your back) and gently lean backwards in a slow stretch, hold for 10 seconds
  • Take a 10 minute speed walk at mid-morning, lunch time, and/or afternoon breaks
         Encourage a co-worker to do these office walks with you
  • Stand for ½ the time in a meeting if possible

These things sound simple enough, but the real problem is retraining ourselves to do something different than what we have always done.  Thinking of movement while at your desk is as important as taking a drink of water.  You don’t take a drink of water once in a day and forget about it after that—the same is true for movement.  Movement “refreshes” the body; therefore we need to be taking a lot of small “sips” of movement all day long while at our desks.

Remember the goal is to remain healthy and pain free.  In order to do that, we need to get involved in our own movement regimes every day and retrain our office work habits.  Doing this will help us stay our best, not only for work but for our family and home life too!

Keep moving!