Is your desk job killing you?

Health and safety | September 2016

office worker with head on desk

10 tips for physical activity at work

Sitting at a desk for eight hours a day can increase your risk of premature death by up to 60%, as illustrated by recent research published by the Lancet. So if you have a desk job and can’t avoid long periods of sitting each day, our 10 tips for physical activity at work will help you to stay safe.

Lack of physical activity is responsible for 5 million deaths: major study review

The research is based on a review of more than 1 million people from 16 different studies, and should be required reading for everyone involved in employee wellbeing and organisational health and safety.ball and chain

It shows that increased time sitting is a major risk factor for morbidity (predominantly heart disease and cancer) as well as premature mortality. Worryingly, it is estimated that a lack of physical activity is responsible for 5 million deaths globally, each year.

Don’t just sit there, be active at work

In the research, mortality rates among those who sat for at least eight hours a day and managed less than five minutes’ activity were 9.9%. This compares with a mortality rate of 6.2% among those who spent just as long seated, but who managed around 60 minutes’ of activity per day.

Researchers concluded that 60-75 minutes of medium intensity physical activity per day seems to eliminate the increased risk of death associated with high sitting time.

10 tips for building physical activity into your working day:

  1. Use your commute to do some extra walking. Park several blocks away, or get off the bus a few stops early.
  2. Use the stairs instead of the lift.
  3. Go to speak to a colleague in person rather than emailing or phoning them.
  4. Suggest holding meetings with colleagues during a walk inside or outside the building.
  5. Exercise during your breaks, e.g. visit the gym at lunchtime or take a quick walk during your morning/afternoon coffee break.
  6. Plan your day to break up long spells of working on your computer with tasks requiring movement, e.g. printing, filing etc.
  7. Drink plenty of water. Sipping water thought the day will mean more trips to the bathroom.
  8. Go the extra distance when possible: get your coffee/water on another floor (use the stairs) or use the WC that’s the farthest from your desk.
  9. Stand while talking on the telephone, and do a few stretches.
  10. Organise the layout of your office space in such a way that you have to stand up to reach often-used files or your printer, rather than having everything within easy reach.