How much time do you spend sitting at your work place? Is it two hours per day? Or is it four hours? Maybe it is five, six or even eight hours? Unfortunately, the trend towards sitting all day is not changing. All of us are sitting more and more at the work place, largely due to the increased usage of technology. Approximately half of the U.S. population is not regularly physically active and 25% are not active at all (CDC, 2010). Physical inactivity is a major public health concern and is closely linked to the development of many chronic diseases. According to the World Health Organization, physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for death (WHO, 2010). Being sedentary is a dangerous choice! Research shows us that leading a sedentary lifestyle will lead to disease, a lower quality of life, and eventually an early death—and the office space is a huge enabler for this trend to continue. We need to think creatively about how we can make our office spaces more active! In order to do that, we need to open our minds to some new, innovative ideas that could literally make the difference of being well or being ill (or dead!)! Here are nine ways to turn your sedentary office life into an active workday, every day:

  1. Phone-walking. Every time your phone rings, get up out of your chair before you pick it up. If you have a portable handset or of course your cell phone, then walk in your office, from one side to the other, while you talk on the phone. Do not sit down until you have hung up the phone. If you have a phone with a chord, then put the phone on speaker, stand up and walk in place by your desk.
  2. The half-hour challenge. Use your cell phone to set an alarm for every 30 minutes. Once it goes off, you will have to complete a two-minute physical activity challenge in your office space. Examples for this challenge are:
    • Walking in place
    • Jogging in place
    • Jumping jacks
    • Walking lunges
    • Sitting down and getting back out of your chair repeatedly
    • Push-ups on the floor or on the edge of your desk
    • Triceps-dips on the floor or on the edge of your desk
    • Wall sits (for 30 seconds at a time, repeat twice)
  3. The lunchtime walkathon. No matter how long you have for your lunch break, plan to spend the first half of it walking outside (preferred) or in the building. The second half of your lunch break can be spent eating.
  4. Build your office-space mini-fitness center. Equip your office with some fun pieces of fitness equipment that you can utilize for the half-hour challenges or at lunchtime as an alternative to walking. In addition, these items could be used during phone-walking. Here are some ideas for cheap and easy-to-store equipment:
    • Resistance bands
    • Dumbbells
    • Jump rope
    • Resistance ball
    • Medicine balls
    • Bosu ball
    • Step (such as they use in step aerobics)
  5. Exchange your office chair for a resistance ball (Swiss ball). Make sure, however, that it has the correct height for your desk. Utilizing a resistance ball can challenge your body’s muscle, even when you do just sit on it.
  6. Create a standing work environment. There are two ways to do this:
    1. request your employer to exchange your sitting desk with a standing desk.
    2. find a way to heighten your work place utilizing boxes or something else to put your computer on top of. Forcing yourself to stand rather than sit, can make a huge difference in reducing your sitting time. (By the way: ‘b’ is possible – I have done this myself!)
  7. Purchase a moving workstation. Although this is an expensive option, it is an option. There are companies that manufacture treadmill desks or stationary bicycle desks (which, by the way, is another idea for the mini-fitness center in your office). You walk or cycle while you are working on your computer on a desk that is specifically designed to fit around the exercise equipment.
  8. Start an office walking club. Be a leader and start a walking club at your workplace. Encourage each other to walk together at lunchtime or during other breaks you may be able to take. In fact, some office walking clubs meet prior to work or walk right after work as well.
  9. Meeting time = standing time. Whenever a meeting is taking place, choose to stand or walk in the room rather than sit. Although this may be awkward socially, it is a great way to be more active. Scientifically, all the evidence for the argument to stand rather than sit, is on your side!

There is no excuse to be sedentary at your office space! Use one or more of the suggestions above and get started right away in order to become more physically active at your office space. Not only can it help you to become less sedentary, but you may also inspire your colleagues, supervisors and bosses to move more as well. Create a physically active office culture today!


About the Author

Dominique Wakefield MA, CPT

is the Director for University Health & Wellness and Adjunct Faculty in the Department for Public Health, Nutrition & Wellness at Andrews University in Michigan. She is also a Certified Personal Trainer through the American Council on Exercise (ACE) and a Certified Wellness Practitioner through the National Wellness Institute (NWI). In addition to university teaching, Dominique has worked extensively, as a manager and personal trainer, in the health and wellness sector. Dominique is a PhD candidate in Health and her research centers on physical activity, motivation for exercise, and behavior change strategies. Dominique is a passionate, energetic, and innovative health, wellness, and fitness expert and regularly contributes articles to Life and Health Network and to the American Council on Exercise (ACE). In October 2011, Dominique Wakefield was awarded "Top 11 Personal Trainers to Watch in the U.S." by Life Fitness and the American Council on Exercise.

19 comments on “How to Stay Active in a Sedentary Job

  1. I think these ideas are wonderful. I do have concerns about sitting too much and I know it’s not good for me. I will try to incorporate some of these solutions into my day.

  2. Have your printer in another room. Everytime you need some printed or copied, you must get up and walk to obtain it.

  3. I try to get up every hour and walk to either the restroom, breakroom or go outside and walk around the building.

  4. Sitting varies every day depending on the business…however, I try to go to the copier/scanner/fax and ladies’ room & break room, when appropriate.

  5. I like the comments regarding the phones. I don’t have a wireless but I do have speaker. I’m gonna try to use this tip.

  6. I have a sitting job and a physical job. My job requires lifting of lease files and also climbing rooftops and crawling into tight spaces.

  7. These ideas are great. I sit way too much and am seriously thinking of purchasing a stand up station

  8. These are great ideas. I sit too often during the day and will seriously think about purchasing a stand-up station

  9. Some of you are like me during the week – sitting at the computer for hours at a time. Unfortunately, as much as we hate to admit, physical inactivity is a major public health concern as the article mentions. Phone walking has always been at the top of my list. Also, my son has got me trained to pick him up every 30 to 45 minutes and run around the house. That counts for some pretty good daily physical activity.

  10. I sit for maybe an hour at a time then I have to go down a long hall to retrieve supplies or deliver something. This helps to not be too sedentary.

  11. I spend 6-8 hours a day sitting at my desk. I try to do small stretches or take a short walk around the office (ie get coffee, get a glass of water, etc….

  12. I would love to do this but I work in a very dirty work trailer on a construction site. The floors are always covered in red dirt or mud therefore my nice jeans and tops would get very dirty but I will keep it in mind on my next job!

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