The harmful effects of your desk job? When you think of a desk job, you probably wouldn’t put it in the high-risk category of say, a fighter pilot, but the results of a 20-year Cambridge University study revealed that sedentary office jobs are causing 90,000 unnecessary deaths a year.
Inactivity, like sitting down for eight hours a day, was linked directly to one in six deaths – mainly from heart disease, stroke, cancer, Type 2 diabetes and dementia.
More than one million UK adults took part in the study. Over a third of them (37%) are believed to be completely inactive – in other words, they spend less than 30 minutes of their day on their feet. Many exacerbate the problem by spending their evening on the sofa for three hours after work.
Now the repercussions of inactivity are being taken as seriously as smoking and obesity. According to the researchers, the problem is responsible for as many lives as smoking – and it’s an even bigger killer than obesity.
Pretty sobering, right? But by making small changes throughout the day, we can combat some of the effects of a desk job and work our way towards a healthier, happier future. We’ll take you through some of the ways you can do this.
Keeping active at work
The study suggests that to counteract long hours spent in a seated position, for every eight hours of inactivity workers must do at least an hour of exercise. In reality this isn’t always possible, so the next best thing is to “build physical activity into your everyday life”.
Turn your commute into a workout
Instead of driving to work, why not turn it into a workout? Not only does running or cycling to work help you keep fit, but you’ll also feel more alert and refreshed by the time you arrive.
If you cycle, you’ll not only burn fat but the effects continue when you’ve finished. “After cycling for 30 minutes you could be burning a higher amount of total calories for a few hours after you stop,” says expert Mark Simpson of Loughborough University.
If that isn’t enough, you can also save money. It is thought that 7 million workers in the UK who make journeys of under five miles by car or bus every day. According to Cycling England, they could save £500 or more a year each if they cycled instead.
Running has a similar effect to cycling. You’ll not only burn calories and get fit, the extra daylight will help lift your mood, too.
The number of calories you’ll burn depends on many factors, including how fast you’re running and your weight. But as a guide, someone weighing 135 pounds (approximately 9.6 stones) will burn 259 calories running at 5mph for 30 minutes.
If you can’t run the whole way to work, you could build up slowly by running to the train station or running part of the way. And if that’s too much, make it a brisk walk instead.
Take the stairs
If cycling or running to work isn’t an option, try to get your exercise in other ways. Simply taking the stairs can help you burn calories, as well as build muscle strength and stamina.
Of course, this works best if you work on the top floor of the building, but the more you reject the lift and embrace the burn of a walk up the stairs, the more you’ll add to your daily exercise goal.
In one example, someone weighing 160lb (around 11.5 stones) who spends three minutes walking up stairs would burn 29 calories. So if they were to climb the stairs four times a day, they’d burn 116 calories.
Even your smallest efforts will be rewarded. If cycling’s not possible and you can’t face a morning run, try standing up.
Moving between a standing and a sitting posture gets your metabolism working. In fact, standing burns 50 more calories per hours than sitting.
Of course, you may have better luck asking your employer for a pay rise than a standing desk. So just stand as much as possible. Enjoy your walk to the bathroom or to the water dispenser, and get up and stretch as much as possible.
Ditch the technology and talk
Make an effort to get up and speak to the colleague across the room rather than emailing them. It’s just a simple change but you’ll keep your muscles working by standing up every now and even stave off weight gain.
In a study of minor physical activities by the Mayo Clinic, which looked at why some people are obese and others are lean, movement sensors were sewn into the garments of two groups of desk workers. Both groups were asked to add 1000 calories to their daily intake and told not to change their movement habits. The group that did not gain weight sat for 2.25 hours less than their peers.
You can make a huge difference to your health even with the smallest changes. From fidgeting at your desk or during a meeting to standing up to stretch, you can help counter all those hours you spend sitting down. The extra motion is enough to burn about 350 extra calories a day. Over a year, this could add up to 10 to 30lbs.
Serious about getting fit? Check out gym membership schemes from Gympass, where you can visit any gym near your job at a reduced rate.