Health in the workplace – Is sitting at your desk killing you?

Written on 17 September 2014

As more and more of us have sedentary jobs, sitting at the desk all day in the same position, it is hardly surprising that it is causing a rise in health issues later in life. It is not uncommon for someone to be at their desk all day, sit in the car on the commute and then once home lounge in front of the TV. The way we are repeatedly sitting, typing and holding the phone could be causing havoc on our bones, joints and muscles.

On top of this, a survey published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, suggested sitting too much without moving is as bad as smoking; increasing our risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

In order to combat these increased risks it is important to be active in the rest of your daily activities. Below are a couple of ideas that can be easily incorporated into everyday life.

  • Exercise on your commute by walking or cycling to work; parking further away from the office and walking in; or getting off the bus or tube a stop early.
  • Stand up and walk around every time you are on the phone.
  • Do simple stretching exercises while at your desk. For example, slowly turning your head from side to side; circling your shoulders while breathing in and out deeply; lifting one leg parallel from the floor and rotating your foot, repeating on each side.
  • Use your lunch hour to go out and get some fresh air; go for a walk or go for a half hour work out at the gym. The exercise will refresh your mind and make the afternoon more productive.
  • Every hour get up from your desk and walk to get a drink or make the effort to go to your colleague’s desk to talk rather than emailing them.
  • Use the stairs instead of taking the lift and climb the escalators rather than standing still.

In the WSM office, we have a flexible approach depending on what suits each employee. For example, we use adjustable desks which can be used either sitting or standing. Studies show that standing at your desk is much more beneficial as there is less chance of slouching; limiting the amount of pressure we put on our backs. Another idea is to sit on a stability ball instead of a chair. In order to balance yourself on the ball which would naturally roll around, you need to engage your core muscles giving yourself a mini abdominal work out whenever you are working at your desk.

These are all small examples of things that can be changed to help limit the negative effects of having a sedentary lifestyle. For more information, have a look at the NHS website here.