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Don't Let Your Desk Job Kill You – Here's How to Stay Active at Work

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Between microwaves, red meat, stress and climate change, it might seem sometimes like everything's out to kill you. Unfortunately, we have one more silent killer to add to the list – something most of us do all day at work, before coming home just to do it some more: sitting.

According to the Annals of Internal Medicine, sitting – or, to be more specific, "patterns of sedentary behavior" – may put you at risk for early death. That's bad news for those of us with desk jobs, which require us to sit for most of the day. However, there are a few ways to break those sedentary patterns, even if you do hold a desk job.

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Incorporate the following routines into your workday to boost your overall health, and who knows – you might add a few years to your life, as well.

1. Take the Stairs (Every Half Hour)

Experts say to take a break for movement every 30 minutes to combat the negative effects of long-term sitting, according to a 2017 article from CNN. The same study that confirmed the direct relationship between time spent sitting and risk of early mortality also found that people who sit for less than half an hour at a time have relatively low risk for early death. To undo some damage from your sedentary workday, make sure to get on your feet every 30 minutes.

And when you take that break from sitting, find an excuse to use the stairs while you're at it. Head downstairs to refill your water bottle or use the bathroom, and use the stairs for your trip back up, as well. This will give your heart and legs a little extra love while also breaking up your sitting patterns.

2. Walk it Out (On Your Lunch Break)

Lunch breaks are for more than just lunch. They give you a chance to move your body, get some fresh air and push work out of your thoughts for a while before returning to the grind. If you didn't pack your lunch, consider finding a spot to eat within walking distance, and make the trek by foot. If your lunch is ready and waiting in the fridge at work, do a lap or two around the block before you eat – it may help you clear your head and relax, while also getting you on your feet for a while.

Lunch break walks aren't exactly an exercise routine of their own, but they will help make your job less sedentary, and their effects add up over time.

3. Stand Up For Your Health (At Your Desk)

The easiest way to combat the effects of sitting at a desk job might be just to stand at your desk job, instead. Consider investing in a standing desk (or even asking your employer to do so), and spend a few hours each workday completing your tasks on your feet. Not only will this make your job less sedentary in the first place, but it'll help you burn calories – the BBC reports that standing can burn as many as 50 more calories per hour than sitting.

4. Make Isometric Movements (In Secret)

Isometric exercises, also called static strength training, include tiny movements that can easily go unnoticed while you're chugging along at work. Isometric contractions involve tightening your muscles without actually moving your joints, and according to My Fitness Pal, they can be as effective as they are sneaky. Try fitting these isometric moves into the desk-bound portion of your workday:

  • Ab hold: Sit up straight, relax your shoulders, breathe deeply and engage your abs, as if someone's about to punch you in the stomach. Hold for five seconds, then exhale while crunching your abs. Repeat.
  • Glute squeeze: Contract your glutes and hold for 10 second, then release. Repeat.
  • Hand press: Press your palms together in front of your chest with your elbows bent. Try to keep the pressure equal between both arms. Hold for 10 seconds, then release and repeat.

About the Author

Brenna Swanston is a freelance writer, editor and journalist. She previously reported for the Sun newspaper in Santa Maria, Calif., and holds a bachelor's in journalism from California Polytechnic State University.

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