Sitting Is Killing You

Sitting Down

Recent scientific studies compare the health risks of sitting still for long periods to smoking a whole packet of cigarettes! There seem to be significant health risks associated with uninterrupted sitting. This is concerning as many of us have jobs where we have to be in front of a computer screen all day every day and/or we have to spend hours traveling. The latest evidence shows that you can’t compensate for a long day chained to a desk by working out hard in the gym either. The only thing that reduces the health risk is to break up those periods of sitting with standing or walking.

The Problem

Modern working environments, both in terms of their design and accepted working practices are bad for us. To improve our health we need to be brave and be prepared to do things differently. We can change the design of our work spaces and offices to reduce the risks without reducing productivity.
What changes should you be thinking about making in your home office or for your team?
• Create an area where one can stand and work. You can do this by buying the right type of office desks that tidy cables away and have plenty of room for storage meaning there is more space elsewhere. You can also consider investing in standing desks or even desks whose height can be adjusted. It might be impractical to create a space where staff can stand while working at a PC but make sure there is a place to stand to read or take calls.
• Sit people away from toilets and drinks. This will force them to take longer walks. If you have a home office use the upstairs loo not the one downstairs.
• Have headsets available so people can take calls or be involved in conference calls while walking.
• Leave some floor space free as a stretching area. This will only really be practical if you have an initiative to give people the confidence to stretch in front of their co-workers and the knowledge to do so safely. The cost of a personal trainer for an hour or two is not very high. They can take you all through some safe stretches and it will be a good team building exercise.

• Invest in some pedometers. They are very cheap and very effective in helping people set and keep activity targets. Consider adding some activity targets to staffs performance assessments. The targets don’t have to affect their pay review but seeing them in black and white and having to discuss their achievement with a line manager will add some motivation.
Of course this is easier to do if you work for yourself or are the boss. If you work for someone else it can be harder to influence your physical workspace. What you can do about it depends on how motivated you are and who is in control. Some practical ways to effect change in an office environment are as follows;
• Use a national health initiative, sporting event or sponsored event to start a debate about health and generate some interest in health at work.
• See if you can find a senior manager who is a health nut and see if they will champion a few changes.
• If you have a committee or group who effect the working environment get yourself on it.
• Be prepared to provide evidence that improving physical activity will not decrease efficiency.

Arm Yourself With The Facts

If you need to get your boss, staff or co-workers on board or convince a budget holder then you will need to have the facts at your fingertips and some powerful sound bites. These should help you form a good business case for some simple changes and motivate co-workers to get involved.

First of all you circulate the info graphic attached to the bottom of this article. Secondly you can circulate the powerful quotes we have provided below. Thirdly you can do your own reading starting with the sources below.


• Q. What can reduce your risk of major illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and cancer by up to 50% and lower your risk of early death by up to 30%. It’s free, easy to take, has an immediate effect and you don’t need a GP to get some.
A. Exercise.
• In the UK physical inactivity causes 10.5% of all heart disease, 18.7% of all colon cancer and 17.9% of all breast cancers.
• Physical inactivity is the fourth leading cause of death worldwide.
• Exercise has been called a miracle drug that can benefit every part of the body and substantially extend lifespan. Socially, being inactive is perceived as normal. This passive attitude towards inactivity, where exercise is viewed as a personal choice, is reminiscent of the battles still being fought over smoking.
• The benefits of improving staffs health are legion – when it works, it cuts sickness absence levels, number of accidents and staff turnover, and their associated costs; it boosts reputation and gives a competitive edge.
• Best-practice firms are seeing real value in focusing on the health and the health management of the entire workforce year round – not just when an employee is off sick.

Sources & Further Reading
• UK Government physical inactivity guidelines;
• The pandemic of physical inactivity: global action for public health – full Lancet article;
• Getting Better: workplace health as a business issue – The full CBI report;
• Physical Activity Facts & Evidence- Cancer Research Information;
• An Active Workforce;

About Mohit Tater

Mohit is the co-founder and editor of Entrepreneurship Life, a place where entrepreneurs, start-ups, and business owners can find wide ranging information, advice, resources, and tools for starting, running, and growing their businesses.


  1. Thanks, this is extremely informative!

    I don’t have a sitting job, but I do work on my own businesses through my laptop daily. I have complete control over how I work, so I need to reconsider sitting down for long periods, although I normally get up and exercise frequently.

    If you take those 30 minute breaks mentioned, will it reset your body a bit if done consistently?

    Thanks for the alarming statistics! Time for a change

  2. Great article! I knew sitting for extended periods of time was bad for the body but I had no idea to what extent! I’m going to set timers on my phone to make sure I get up and moving often throughout the day. Thanks for the tips!

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