Forget about smoking – sitting is now bad for your health

Sitting for long periods of time at a desk has now been suggested as having the same detrimental effect on our health as smoking.

In a recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald Sarah Berry referred to two different studies that showed that for every hour of watching TV while seated, we cut 22 minutes from our lifespan. The other study showed that smoking shortens a smoker’s lifespan by 11 minutes per cigarette. As Ms Berry pointed out, people who sit down and smoke for long periods are in big trouble. There are no studies to our knowledge which show the effect of someone who smokes but who walks around while smoking!sitting in a chair

For those of us who work in office environments, this comes as quite a shock. More and more professional services firms are embracing the “open plan” office format with moveable desks that encourage people to stand up while they work. We’ve long known from a workplace health and safety perspective that sitting for long periods of time at a computer is detrimental to our health – it is bad for our eyes and musculoskeletal system, and can cause headaches. Most organisations encourage those sitting at computers for long periods of time to get up and walk around every now and then. But very few people actually take that advice, preferring to continue working, or just not thinking about it.

Those who are lucky enough to work in an environment which encourages staff to get up and walk around will have the opportunity to do this. But if you work in a job where you are largely sitting at a desk in front of your computer all day, how do you prevent the ill health associated with sitting for long periods of time?

  • If you have to make a phone call and don’t need to make notes of it – stand up while you do so. This is a discipline that will take practice and conscious thought in order to change the way you work.
  • Don’t fill a jug of water up at the beginning of the day. Get up and frequently refresh your water glass from the tap rather than from the jug on your desk.
  • If you have to go to the bathroom, go the long way.
  • If there are internal stairs at your office use them instead of the lift
  • When you finish one job, stand up and stretch your legs before starting the next.
  • While you’re sitting down, do individual leg raises in turn, while you’re working. This is also a good left brain/right brain exercise.

Do you have any other tips to become less sedentary in the office?