5 Ways to Counteract Hours of Sitting at a Desk

They’re all incredibly easy.

woman-staring-at-computer
Photo by Compassionate Eye Foundation/Hiep Vu/Getty Images

“Sitting kills”—or at least, that’s what we’re told, and it’s certainly alarming enough to make us all want to jump out of our chairs. Too much sedentary time has been linked to several life-threatening conditions, including liver disease. But if you can’t invest in a costly treadmill desk or take a long lunch break to hit the gym, we have good news: The science suggests you don’t necessarily have to exercise more, you just have to sit less. A study from King’s College London showed that people who targeted their sitting time were more effective in reducing it altogether, as opposed to those who focused on adding more physical activity into their day. Knowing that, we’ve rounded up a few simple, scientifically-backed ways to keep yourself moving throughout the day while remaining productive.

Fidget in your seat. Antsy children may be onto something. According to a study from the University of Leeds’ UK Women’s Cohort, women who sat very still in their chairs for seven hours per day, and identified themselves as rare fidgeters, found a 43 percent increase in mortality compared with women who sat for five hours per day. However, women who were moderate or high fidgeters had no greater mortality risk between the shorter and longer sitting periods.

Take a 10-minute walk at lunch. In a small study of 11 healthy young men, researchers at the University of Missouri found that a 10-minute walk was the best way to follow hours of sitting to improve blood flow and vascular health.

Go to the bathroom. Or the office kitchen. Or just walk over to your coworker’s desk. While a 10-minute walk would be ideal, even a two-minute walking break can help, according to the University of Utah Health Sciences. This won’t replace exercise, but scientists recommend taking a two-minute walk every hour—the "trade-off" decreased participants’ risk of dying by 33 percent.

Press “pause” on the TV. This one is for kids. Research from The Endocrine Society showed that a three-minute walking break helped improve blood sugar in children who spent extended time watching television (or another sedentary activity). We’re sure you could convince your little ones to take a break for just the length of one song.

Don’t flop onto the couch at the end of the day. We know, it’s tempting to switch on your favorite show after a long day at work, but researchers from the University of Sydney advise otherwise. If you swap that hour of TV with a quick walk, you can reduce your mortality risk by 12 to 14 percent. Plus, this easy trick can help you burn 20 percent more calories while you walk.

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