Get out of your chair. Photo source: Amy Mullins

Have you ever thought about how many hours a day you spend sitting?  Sitting at your desk, sitting in front of a computer, sitting watching television, sitting in the car, sitting, sitting, sitting.  On average, Americans sit approximately 13 hours a day and sleep 8 hours adding up to a whopping 21 hours of inactivity.  All of this sitting around may in fact be shortening our lives.

The cumulative effect of daily inactivity, or sedentary time, has contributed to a nationwide crisis of escalating chronic health conditions that include obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, certain cancers, and type-2 diabetes.  According to research, including a 2014 Harvard study of over 92,000 women, the risk of dying from stroke, heart disease, and cancer increases with the more time spent standing.  In addition, the negative effects of excessive sitting seem to be just as strong in people that participated in a regular exercise regimen!

Standing Has Many Benefits

Our bodies increase a fat-burning enzyme called Lipoprotein Lipase when muscles are activated.  This doesn’t just happen during purposeful exercise, but even during periods of standing.  In fact, standing burns 30% more calories than sitting still!  Regular engagement of muscles keeps them in a more continuous metabolic state that helps improve blood cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels.  Regular intervals of standing with minimal movement does all of this and so much more:

  • Improves posture
  • Tones muscles
  • Increases blood flow
  • Improves metabolism
  • Improves mood
  • Increases mental energy
  • Reduces fatigue

During a typical day at work, experts recommend not sitting for more than 20 minutes at a time with regular intervals of standing.  Standing up and walking even for just 5 minutes can lift your mood, increase mental energy and productivity, and can even dull your urge for unnecessary snacking.

What You Can Do

Standing desk. Photo source: Amy Mullins

Get up and move more!  Consider some of these ideas to help in your quest to be more active during the day:

  • Create a culture of health and encourage others in your workplace to support one another.
  • Purchase a “standing desk” or get creative and make one to meet your needs
  • Use a smartphone app, wrist monitoring device (such as a FitBit), or just an alarm on your phone or desktop to remind you to stand up and stretch or to walk outside for some fresh air.
  • Instead of emailing or calling a co-worker, get up and take a stroll down the hall.
  • On a conference call? Stand, move, stretch, do squats or desk push-ups.
  • Take the stairs as often as you can.
  • Forget hum-drum meetings in the conference room! Get creative on your feet and schedule walking meetings.
  • Skip the afternoon coffee and energize with some office exercises. Consider getting an exercise mat, resistance band, stability ball and light weights.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and clothing to the office and enjoy part of your lunch break taking a brisk walk and/or stretching.
  • Bring your own reusable bottle to work and drink more water throughout the day. More water means more times you’ll have to walk to the restroom!

It’s not easy to create positive habits, but your health is worth it.  But, making even a few changes to your normal routine can put you on a path to a happier and healthier life. For additional information about healthy habits in the workplace, visit:

NIH U.S. National Library of Medicine

U.S. Division of Occupational Health and Safety

CDC Workplace Health Promotion

University of Michigan Computer Ergonomics