Australia’s Department of Health recognises being physically active and limiting sedentary periods is vital for good health,1 while the,
“World Health Organisation (WHO) says inactivity is the fourth biggest killer of adults, and is responsible for 9% of all premature deaths.”2
It’s known that we can all benefit from maintaining a level of physical activity and cutting back on our sedentary time, but how can we do this if we work in an office?
This guide outlines how much activity you need, and provides some easy ideas for getting more active in the office.
Dangers of sedentary lifestyles
The Australian government program ComCare recently identified that the average worker sits for 76% of the day,3 which is unfortunate as research shows that sitting or staying still all day will have a negative impact on health and life expectancy. For example,
People who sit for 11 hours or more a day are 40% more likely to die within three years than those who sit for less than four hours.3
Sitting for long periods of time was an independent risk factor for health issues such as colon cancer and heart disease.3 It’s incredibly important to the balance between exercise and sedentary time, for those wishing to live a long and healthy life.4
How much exercise do you need?
According to the Australia’s Department of Health,
Adults aged 18 to 64 should be active on most, if not all, days of the week.1
These adults should enjoy an accumulated 150 to 300 minutes (2.5 to 5 hours) of moderate intensity exercise per week, or 75 to 150 minutes (1.5 to 2.5 hours) of vigorous intensity exercise a week, or the equivalent combination of both types each week. The Department of Health recommends adults in this age group complement this exercise with muscle strengthening activities at least two days a week.1
Reducing sitting time
The Department of Health states sedentary behaviour is linked with poorer health outcomes, such as a higher risk of type 2 diabetes – even for those who do physical activity.5 However it also claims there’s not yet enough evidence to specify what might be too long a sitting5 period.
Department of Health recommends adults minimise the amount of time they spend in prolonged sitting, and break up long sitting periods ‘as often as possible’.1
Some researchers have suggested you should stand for at least two hours (out of a total eight hours) at work, and work your way up to four hours.6
Applications like MacBreakz for Mac, Big Stretch for PC or RegularBreaks.com for browsers can remind you to get up at regular intervals and, with the right settings, can even force you to take a break from using your keyboard or mouse before you’re allowed to keep working.
How to move more during work hours
Even if you feel like you don’t have much time to get away from your desk during the day, there are ways to minimise your sitting time and pack more activity into your office hours.
To and from work
Walk or cycle to work if you live close, or integrate some brisk walking into your commute by getting off a few stops earlier, or parking further away. Always take the stairs instead of the lift or, if you’re in a high-rise office building, only take the lift half way up (and down).
Use a pedometer or other activity tracker to monitor how much walking you’re adding to your commute.
Every little bit counts, and you can squeeze more exercise into your day by using your lunch hour in a smart way. Taking five minutes out every hour to do some basic stretching can also keep you refreshed, but here are some additional options to keep active:
- Avoid emailing or online chatting when you can speak to someone in person, and walk to your colleague’s desk instead.
- Keep things like bins, printers, files, water and stationery away from your desk so you have to get up to use them.
- Switch to speakerphone mode or grab some hands-free gear, and walk around when you talk on the phone.
- Use a standing desk, and alternate between standing and sitting. As well as reducing the amount of sedentary time you’ll have, you’ll also burn more calories if you stand more7.
- Set an alarm to stand at regular intervals or use one of the break apps mentioned above if you tend to sit and forget about getting back on your feet.
- Encourage everyone in the office to do walk-and-talk meetings instead of sit-down ones whenever practical.
- Use an exercise ball instead of a chair, as exercise balls make your body work your core muscles while you sit8.
- Do mini workouts in your office at regular intervals. For example, you might do a few push-ups, jump squats, lunges, wall squats, or planks every half an hour or hour to get your blood pumping.
- Arrange social group lunch walks around the block with colleagues, or set up 30-minute workout sessions at a nearby gym.