Sitting Around All Day at Your Office Job Is As Unhealthy As You Think It Is

Man sitting at desk.

Studies on desk jockeys have almost always shown that the sedentary office workers have an increased risk of metabolic disorders like diabetes and chronic diseases like high blood pressure. And researchers have found that too much sitting time is distinct from too little exercise—meaning that even if you work out a lot even after sitting all day, it may not make much difference in reducing risk for developing multiple health problems.

Now, we have even more evidence that riding a desk all day can ruin our health and blow out our waistlines.

In a new study from the University of Warwick in Scotland, researchers fitted 111 post office workers with activity monitors for a week. About half sat in the office all day, while the other half were out and about delivering the mail. Overall, the desk workers had a higher waist circumference (38″ versus 37″ for the carriers), and their risk of cardiovascular disease was about a half a percent higher over 10 years. Granted, those aren’t huge numbers—but they’re still significant. In fact, the researchers found that every extra hour you sit after five hours of being sedentary may increase your waistline by almost an inch, and ups your risk of heart disease by 0.2%.  

“Longer time spent in sedentary posture is significantly associated with larger waist circumference, higher triglycerides [fat in the blood] and lower HDL cholesterol, all adding up to worse risk of heart disease,” said study lead William Tigbe, Ph.D. “The levels associated with zero risk factors were walking more than 15,000 steps per day, which is equivalent to walking seven to eight miles, or spending seven hours per day upright.”

It can be tough not to sit all day, since most of us are chained to a computer and desk so we can make a living. Try alternate strategies to keep off of your ass—like a standing desk, taking frequent breaks and strolls around the office, or proposing that meetings be walking conferences. If those options aren’t feasible, it’s still important to get at least 150 minutes of moderate, or 75 minutes of vigorous, exercise a week to stay healthy. Here’s a simple workout plan [URL] that’ll help you get in quality workouts every week.

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