Sitting down at desk header graphic

Sitting too much can be hazardous to your health

October 4, 2012 Denise Pinkney

I love to exercise. Call me crazy, but I really do. I either walk on the treadmill or take a 6 a.m. water aerobics class. Even though I meet the American College of Sports Medicine's exercise recommendation of 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week, I recently found out I may not be doing enough.

Woman sitting at phone

If you exercise 30 minutes a day, but then sit 14 hours throughout the day, you are an active couch potato.

That's because I work at a sedentary job. As a writer, I don't have to lift heavy items or do much walking other than to interview someone. And sometimes I can do that by phone, sitting at my desk.

According to Branden Schultz, a wellness intern at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota, a person who exercises 30 to 60 minutes a day, but then spends about 14 hours sitting (driving, working, eating, watching TV) is an active couch potato.


And if that weren't bad enough, Branden also shared some alarming stats with me.

  • People with sedentary jobs are twice as likely to die from heart disease.
  • 80 percent of Americans work at jobs that require little to no physical activity.
  • Americans burn 140 fewer calories per day than 50 years ago. That translates to an average gain 14.6 unwanted pounds.

A growing number of researchers are claiming that sitting too much can be lethal.

So what's a person like me to do?

Well, I could start off with wiggling or fidgeting while I write. Yes, any type of movement will help. And it's also good to get some stretches in. 

Women stretching

Stand up and take a stretch.

I can be active on my two 15-minute breaks and 30-minute lunch (a total of 60 minutes). Branden explained in those 60 minutes a person who weighs 170 pounds (by the way, not my personal weight) would burn 84 calories sitting, 366 calories walking, and 477 calories walking for 30 minutes and doing aerobics for 30 minutes.

The benefits

Being more physically active can help reduce your risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, depression, arthritis, osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke and back pain.

In addition, physical activity improves circulation, sleeping habits, boosts HDL "good" cholesterol and metabolism.

With all those health benefits, I think I'll try to wiggle more as I write.

Branden shared these ideas with me for getting more physical activity.

 What to do at work:

  • Take the stairs. Skip the elevator.
  • Walk or bike to work.
  • Park farther away in the parking lot.
  • Stand up every 30 minutes during work.
  • Go up or down a floor to get water or take a bathroom break.
  • Instead of phoning or emailing your fellow employee who sits three cubicles over, walk to his or her desk.
  • Consider holding standing or walking meetings. 
  • Move your trash away from your desk so you have to stand to throw stuff away.
  • Eat lunch away from your desk so you can get up and move.
  • Make your own version of a sit-stand desk. Place books/boxes under your keyboard and monitor so you can stand while working.
  • Keep resistance bands and small dumbbells in your office, and do exercises during breaks

 What to do at home:

  • Get up during commercial breaks at home. Fold clothes or do dishes.
  • Walk on a treadmill or jog in place while watching TV.
  • Walk or bike short distances from home.
  • Spend time outside on nice days. Do yard work or walk the pets.
  • Play with kids.
  • Break up house chores throughout the day to stay active.
  • Wash your car by hand. 
  • Play music at home. This tends to get you in the mood to be active.
  • Visit nearby parks. Play outdoor games with your children or walk your pets.

 I'd like to hear from you

If you work at a sedentary job, please let me know what you do to be more active.