Why Your Desk Job Is Killing You

Why Your Desk Job Is Killing You

By now, you’ve heard the rumors. You probably have a friend or family member who has told you that you might love your new job (and hey, at least you have one) but sitting all day in front of that computer console is essentially considered sedentary activity. Keeping up that habit of prolonged sitting day after day (as well as on your way to work, going home from work, and then in front of the TV) will send you to an early grave. Seriously.

Sitting is now considered a behavior worse than smoking agree most physicians. But how can you rev up your activity level and still maintain enough productivity to keep the boss happy? It is possible, but before we look at tips to amp up your physical activity, let’s examine the risks of sitting and why inactivity has become such a problem of the modern age.

Sedentary behaviors are taking up too much of our everyday lives. We sit while traveling, in waiting rooms, at most jobs, while studying and reading, while playing video games, eating, dining out, and when we relax, such as while watching TV or taking in that summer blockbuster…all activities that demand very little physical energy.

In fact, a 2012 article published in Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice looked at the daily activity levels of 6,000 adults between 2003 and 2006 as a part of the U.S. National Health Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). What researchers determined was that the majority of waking time for all the participants was spent, some 51 to 68 percent of it, on activities that required little to no physical energy while “moderate to vigorous activity accounted for only another 5 percent.” The remaining time — 27 to 44 percent — was spent doing light physical activity, such as house cleaning.

In short, American adults (and likely our kids as well) are spending too much time relaxing. Even the numbers on our light physical activity are alarmingly low. And doctors now believe that even 30 minutes of rigorous exercise three times a week is not effective at combating how badly our bodies are reacting to all the time we spend relaxing. Another interesting note of the same 2012 study was that there was a direct correlation of decreased sedentary activity hours with an increase in light physical activity, suggesting that just getting up and moving more frequently during the day can directly reduce the risk of any job that requires hours in front of a computer.

Sitting and Premature Mortality

Since 2000, numerous studies have confirmed what physicians have long suspected. Too much sitting has a direct correlation with bad health outcomes and premature death, especially if you are a man or woman with existing cardiovascular disease.

In a study that examined 240,000 adults aged 50 to 71, those who reported participating in seven hours per week of “moderate to vigorous physical activity during leisure time but who also watched about seven hours of TV per day had a 50 percent greater risk of death from all causes and twice the risk of death from cardiovascular disease relative to those who undertook the same amount of physical activity but watched less than one hour of TV daily.” What’s the takeaway? Strenuous activity is important, but so is an avoidance of sitting for any prolonged period.

Sitting and Chronic Disease

If your mere DNA is likely a menu for a host of future chronic disease, especially those that tend to come on late in life, don’t spend your youth sitting. Study after study confirms that prolonged sitting increases both the risk of developing disease as it does to worsen the chronic disease that you may already have. Hours and hours of sitting has been linked to obesity, expanding waistlines, high blood glucose and Type II diabetes, heart disease, poor circulation, and high triglycerides. Sitting too much has also been linked to the development of higher-than-normal inflammation in the body according to the same NHANES survey that found “sedentary time was deleteriously associated with cardio-metabolic biomarkers and the inflammatory biomarker C-reactive protein.”

What You Can Do

More and more the line of thinking is don’t trade in your exercise routine, but pay greater attention to increasing your daily physical activity, especially during the leisurely parts of your day. Get up from your desk more frequently, conduct a meeting or brainstorm a problem while walking, or ask your company to offer a standing or treadmill desk. If those options are not possible, then fidget at your desk while you work. Just tapping your hands, habitually jiggling your legs, or doing a few sitting exercises from time to time can help. Consider any time spent in front of the TV a potential danger; instead, watch television or stream video while doing housework, ironing clothing, cooking, or playing with the kids. Better still, hustle everyone together and go outside — chances are that movie you’re literally dying to see can wait.