How to Avoid Sitting at Your Desk Too Long

Three Parts:Moving More During the WorkdayIncorporating Daily Desk ExercisesMaintaining an Active Lifestyle

Many people have become interested in moving more during their work day since recent research has linked long periods of sitting to adverse health effects. These higher rates of obesity, metabolic syndrome and death from cardiovascular disease. In addition, metabolic syndrome and obesity increase your risk of having high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol levels.[1] It may seem like there's an easy remedy to this situation — getting up and walking more — but our busy lifestyles often get in the way. We sit in the car or on the train for a long commute to work, sit at our office in front of a computer most days (maybe even eating lunch here) and then sitting when we get home. Avoid sitting at your desk too long by employing some easy tricks and reminders to get up and move more.

Part 1
Moving More During the Workday

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    Set alarms for yourself. It can be tough to figure out just when you can take more steps or be more active at the office. This is especially true if you're super busy during the day and find that your day flies by.[2]
    • Set alarms or reminders for yourself to move. This can help draw your attention to your activity level and help you focus on getting in enough movement or steps during the day.
    • Email reminders are a great way to grab your attention to get up and move. Most email systems allow you to schedule reminders and alarms that pop up on your computer screen and even your phone.
    • Schedule walk breaks into your day as well. Block off 10 minutes in your schedule to go for a walk or do some office exercises. Pencil it in, ask an administrative assistant or front desk employee to put it in your schedule or mark it off yourself.
    • Some pedometers, especially the wristbands and watches, will vibrate or beep whenever you've been sitting for more than an hour at a time. They're a great reminder to get up and move.
    • It’s important to get up every 30 to 60 minutes. Research shows that light activity for as little as 2 minutes every hour has significant health benefits.[3]
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    Drink more water. Drinking more water is always a great idea to improve your overall health, and it's also a good way to get you up and moving more than you normally do on a typical workday.
    • The more water you drink, the more you'll be getting up to fill up your water bottle (or get another glass) and the more often you'll be getting up to use the restroom.
    • Aim for at least eight glasses of clear, hydrating fluids everyday. Go with water, flavored water or even decaf coffee and tea. You may even want to aim for 13 glasses if you're fairly active.[4]
    • If you can, when you get up to use the restroom, use a facility that's farther away from your desk. Use a bathroom on another floor or further down the hallway to get more steps in.
    • Also, consider using a smaller water bottle. Instead of a 32 oz bottle, purchase an 8 or 16 oz bottle that you'll fill up more often.
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    Add more steps to your day. Many studies have recently linked an increase in steps (or meeting that new "10,000 steps per day" goal) with a variety of health benefits (like reduced blood pressure).[5] Although you don't have to meet a certain number of steps daily, working towards a goal can help you avoid sitting too long at your desk.
    • Walk on your lunch break. If you have the opportunity to, take a walking lunch break. Go for at least 10 minutes if you can. Walk outside, walk laps around the building, or take the stairs a few times.
    • Walk to deliver messages to your co-workers. Instead of sending the usual email, try to get up and deliver messages in person (maybe with a post-it note) to your co-workers instead.
    • Take the stairs instead of the elevator if your office building has multiple floors. This is an easy way to get in more steps and get your heart rate elevated.
    • Ask to do small meetings while walking instead of in the conference room. Walk with a small team instead of sitting down for an hour in the conference room.
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    Stand while you talk on the phone. If you have a customer service position, or answer the phones or talk on the phone the majority of the day, it can be difficult to actually get away from your desk. However, you can try a variety of things to get yourself up from sitting too long.
    • Even if you just stand while you talk on the phone, that's an improvement over sitting all day long. Studies have shown standing more helps your blood sugar returns to normal much quicker after a meal, you burn more calories during the day and improve symptoms of arthritis.[6]
    • When you're on the phone, aim to stand as much as you can. Maybe you stand every other phone call or stand for 10 minutes and then sit for 10 minutes and then stand for 10 minutes.
    • Make sure to distribute your weight equally on both feet so you don't end up with a sore hip or leg. Also keep shoulders down and back to maintain good posture.
    • Ask your company for a phone headset so you're not tied to your desk by your phone cord. This allows you to stand and walk around as you talk.
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    Incorporate desk exercises. In the event you just cannot get away from your desk, there are some exercises you can do at your desk just to move your body around more.
    • There are a whole host of desk exercises that you can do at your desk. These help get your heart rate elevated, promote better posture and burn more calories compared to sitting still.[7]
    • You can try anything from doing a quick yoga routine in your office, doing sitting leg raises or doing push-ups on your office floor.
    • Choose exercises that you're capable of doing and that will work with your particular office environment.
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    Get your whole company involved. Another way to make moving more and taking more steps at work easier, is by getting your entire company involved. Talk to your boss or HR department and to help get your whole office environment focused on standing and moving more during the day.
    • You're probably not the only one in your office that would benefit from moving around more during the day. Ask your friends or co-workers if they'd like to start a walking group at lunch, come a little earlier to walk before work or host a small yoga session in your office.
    • Ask for a walking or standing desk. Consider talking to HR department or your boss about the ability of getting a walking or standing desk for your office.
    • Remind you company of the health benefits more movement provides. This may help decrease the use of health insurance and days out sick by employees.
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    Fidget while you sit. If you find that you are not able to get up every 30 to 60 minutes, then begin developing a habit of fidgeting while sitting. A study demonstrated that those who fidget had lower health risks than those that didn’t fidget.[8]

Part 2
Incorporating Daily Desk Exercises

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    Do a mini Yoga routine. One particularly good exercise to try to include at work is yoga. Not only does it count as additional activity, but it's also associated with decreased stress and improved posture.[9]
    • You don't need to spend a lot of time practicing yoga at the office. Even a 10 minute quick routine can help provide some benefits.[10]
    • Bring your mat to work (or buy one for your office) and schedule in a yoga session most days. Start with some simple stretches like downward dog, warrior one and two, chair pose, eagle pose or upward facing dog.
    • If you can't find a space to yoga in your office, look up a local yoga studio or gym and see if you can fit in a quick workout (maybe even only stay for half) during your break or lunch break.
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    Incorporate some desk push-ups. If you're interested in keeping up your strength or building muscle, try incorporating some resistance training exercises like push-ups or dips.
    • You can try doing traditional push-ups on the floor (especially if you have a private area to do them) or try doing them on the wall or your desk.
    • You can also do tricep push-ups as well. You can use the arms of your chair or the side of your desk to lower yourself down.
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    Do office lunges and squats. Another super easy exercise to fit into your office are lunges and squats. They do not require any equipment and can be done anywhere.
    • Make sure you have enough space to do lunges. If you have a very small office or cubicle, you may need to find another space so you enough room to do lunges safely.
    • You can do traditional front lunges or backwards lunges for less of a strain on your joints and muscles.
    • Squats are a small exercise that do not require a lot of room. You can do a traditional squat or a chair squat where you sit down on your office chair and then stand back up again.
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    Try standing calf raises. This particular exercise is another easy one to do at the office as it requires no equipment (though having a desk helps). It can help strengthen your legs and gets you up from a seated position.
    • Standing leg or calf raises are an ideal exercise for those wanting to get up and move more. This exercise in particular helps improve and promote circulation which is great after an hour or two of being seated.[11]
    • Standing calf raises are just an exercise where you raise yourself onto your "tippy toes" and hold that position for a few seconds before lowering back down to flat feet.
    • You can use a wall, back of a chair, or your desk to help you support yourself and maintain your balance.
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    Incorporate Seated leg lifts. If you cannot get away from your desk or your desk chair, there are leg exercises that you can do while sitting. Leg raises are ideal for those that need to sit longer than they'd like.
    • Seated leg lifts or raises are great for anyone of any fitness level. Again, they require no equipment (except a chair to sit in) and can be done at any time of day.
    • As you're sitting on the phone or typing emails lift one of your legs straight out in front of you and hold for a few seconds and then lower that leg back down. Repeat with the opposite leg and alternate sides a few times.
    • You may try doing a few sets of these throughout the day or do them while you're listening into a conference call.

Part 3
Maintaining an Active Lifestyle

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    Aim for 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise weekly. Although there is a vast array of health benefits associated with moving more or standing more at work, you should also focus on making sure you meet the recommended weekly minimum of aerobic exercise.
    • The CDC and USDA recommend that all healthy adults participate in about 150 minutes of aerobic or cardio exercises each week, which is 30 minutes five days a week.[12]
    • This amount provides other health benefits in addition to the ones associated with increased activity at work. Structured cardiovascular exercise is associated with a healthier weight, decreased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes, improved mood and improved quality of life.[13]
    • In addition to your desk exercises, aim to include other activities like: jogging, walking, using the elliptical, dancing, taking a spin class, hiking or doing an aerobics class.
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    Include one to two days of strength training. Like cardiovascular exercise, its equally important to include structured strength training each week. These exercises also provide additional health benefits.
    • The CDC recommends that healthy adults participate in 20 minutes of strength training (making sure to work every major muscle group) at least one day a week.[14]
    • Strength training comes with its own specific health benefits. These exercises have been associated with increased bone density and improved bone health, increased or maintenance of muscle mass and increased metabolism.[15]
    • Include exercises like: yoga, pilates, using free weights or weight machines.
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    Avoid watching more than two hours of TV daily. Although sitting down to watch a good show or movie can be a relaxing way to end your day, there are consequences associated with the additional sitting. Try to avoid watching TV as often as you can.
    • Studies have linked watching more than two hours of TV daily with a 50% increase of death from any cause (like diabetes or stroke) and a 125% increase in risk of events associated with heart disease (like chest pain or heart attack).[16]
    • Track how much TV you typically watch during the week. If you're averaging more than 14 hours a week, think about other active ways you can spend your time instead.
    • Consider ending your day with a walk with your spouse, friends or family or do some light stretching or yoga for an evening of relaxation.
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    Continue your activity goal outside of work. It's a great idea to try to get up and move more during your work day so you're not sitting for extended periods of time. But many people also spend their time at home sitting or being sedentary.
    • Try to continue your activity goal outside of work. For example, even if you've done a mini yoga routine at lunch and took two walks breaks, don't come home and watch TV for three hours before you go to sleep.
    • Find ways to keep your activity levels high outside of work. Think about times where you typical sit for longer periods of time or when you watch the most TV. These are times when you need to consider adding in more activity.
    • You can try: standing or doing some of the same work exercises during TV commercial breaks, taking a walk after dinner or doing household chores when you get home.


  • Slowly start adding some of these tips into your day. It may be difficult to make many changes in a short period of time.
  • Get your friends and co-workers involved in your quest to move more during the day. You're probably not the only one that would like a break from sitting.
  • Invest in your own standing desk. There are some inexpensive models on the market today, ranging from a simple box to put on top of your desk, to a fully automated one.[17]

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Categories: Motivation to Exercise