The health risks of desk jobs and how you can sidestep them

Roshini Gilbert

September 14, 2020

If you have a sedentary job, it might be doing more harm to your body than you realise.

Several recent studies have demonstrated the ill effects of sitting, going so far as to compare the harmful effects of a deskbound job to that of smoking.

Prolonged sitting is the root cause numerous serious health concerns, including obesity, diabetes, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, brittle bones, colon cancer, back pain, deep-vein-thrombosis, depression and dementia. On average, studies indicate that people who sit for long hours have a 50 percent higher risk of dying than people who are more active.

Even the World Health Organisation (WHO) has attested to the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle, listing physical inactivity as the “fourth leading risk factor for global mortality causing an estimated 3.2 million deaths globally”.

What sitting does to your body

The human body is meant to stay active, not confine itself to chairs. Prolonged inactivity can trigger a series of harmful reactions in the body that may end up causing various illnesses.
long sitting in office

Sitting for long hours causes the calorie burning rate to drop to 1 calorie per minute and blood pressure and blood glucose levels to spike. Good cholesterol levels drop and all electrical activity in the legs cease. Sitting for six hours a day for more than two weeks at a stretch leads to a rise in bad cholesterol levels. A drop in the level of enzymes which break down fat is observed while muscle breakdown reduces their ability to pump blood back to the heart through contractions.

In fact, research suggests that sitting for more than six hours a day for 10 to 20 years on end can cut short up to seven quality-adjusted-life-years—or years without medical issues or death.

Ways to counter the effects of a sedentary lifestyle

 Sadly, the ill effects of a sedentary lifestyle can’t be completely neutralised by exercise. The best way to counter the effects of a sedentary lifestyle is by stepping up physical activity at the workplace. This can be done in the following ways:

  1. Take the stairs

    While you are in office, try and squeeze in some physical activity. If your office is in a high-rise, taking the stairs instead of the elevator is a great way to get the heart pumping.

  2. Walk over to a colleague

    Have a question for a colleague? Just walk over to them. Refrain from using the intercom or email. In fact, some offices in the United States have a system that automatically blocks emails to colleagues sitting close by in a bid to encourage employees to get up and walk.

  3. Move around

    Move Around
    Get up from your desk, stretch and move around. Doing this for 10 minutes every hour could help raise your metabolic rate.

  4. Make a stand

    Do as much of your work as possible standing up. Need to read a report? Take a print out to the balcony. Need to make a presentation? Why not place your laptop on an elevated rack so that you can work standing up?

  5. Walk the talk

    Make it a habit to move around while you are talking on your cell phone.

About the Author

After a diligent workout plan helped her lose 30kg of post-pregnancy weight, chartered accountant Roshini Gilbert was inspired enough to go from tallying numbers to training others. Currently serving as VP, Fitness & Services, at HealthifyMe, Roshini has been certified by the American Council on Exercises (ACE) for functional fitness and specialises in postnatal weight loss, exercises for lower back pain, arthritis and osteoporosis. As part of her Rehab Trainer certification in Australia, Roshini has trained with reputed sports physiotherapist, Ulrik Larsen in corrective exercises and injury management. In HealthifyMe, she has found a collaborator with a common cause – making people fit to live life to the fullest.

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