5 Tips for Employees to Combat Sedentary Jobs


Two male officers in a walking meeting to avoid sedentary behaviour in the workplace

Sedentary jobs have come under the microscope in recent years. A job that sees you sit for most of the workday is a major risk factor for many chronic health conditions. But taking responsibility for your health and changing the way you work can reduce the risks.

What is the Meaning of Sedentary Jobs?

Sedentary work includes jobs that require a worker to sit for prolonged periods and do little standing or moving around. Australian workers spend approximately 76% of their workday sitting, which equates to five hours per day. Around one-quarter of the workforce report, they sit for eight hours per day. 

What Happens When You Are Sedentary?

Prolonged sitting can cause loss of muscle strength and endurance because you have insufficient movement and muscle activity. 

How Bad is Being Sedentary?

Over seven hours of sedentary behaviour per day is likely to be detrimental to health and therefore considered excessive.

Sitting for long periods is linked to musculoskeletal disorders, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, obesity and poor mental health. Sedentary work can also lead to premature death.  

Research tells us we can’t undo the effects of sedentary work by doing some extra exercise before or after work. It’s the long stretches spent in sedentary positions that cause health problems. 

Sedentary work is associated with repetitive movements which can cause strain injuries. Wrist supports and pads can raise your arm to work at a more comfortable angle. Combine ergonomic supports with frequent breaks and stretching to reduce discomfort.

Which Jobs Have the Most Sedentary Lifestyle? 

Office-based jobs are some of the most sedentary. Truck driving and operating cranes also see workers spend long periods in one position.

But there are steps workers can take to reduce the risks without giving up their jobs.

#1 Invest in a Sit Stand Desk & Ergonomic Supports

A stand-up desk can add movement to your workday. While you won’t burn many extra calories or be less sedentary, there are benefits. 

Alternating between standing and sitting throughout the day means you aren’t placing pressure on the same joints every hour of the day. For example, sitting causes the hip flexor muscles to tighten and after a long period your hip can cause you pain. By standing after a couple of hours of sitting, you give your muscles a chance to stretch out and your circulation to improve.

If you’re standing, you’re more likely to walk away from your desk than if you’re in a seated position.

#2 Move Away from Your Desk Regularly

Think about how you can work differently, so you can build in opportunities to leave your desk. Try to visit colleagues at their desk, rather than messaging or picking up the phone. Or try incorporating walking meetings, they're a great way to get your daily steps up. 

Be sure to get up from your desk and move every half hour or at least hourly. A five-minute break spent walking gets the circulation moving and allows the muscles to get out of the seated position, reducing the chance of repetitive strain injuries. If you find it difficult remembering to get up and move around throughout the day, then trying out the Pomodoro Technique could be for you. The Pomodoro Technique is a time management system that also encourages movement throughout the day. You split your workday into 25-minute blocks, before taking a 5-minute break after four Pomodoros take a 30-minute break and leave the office to go on a long walk, jog or ride. This break not only gives your body the chance to recharge but also acts as a reset for your brain.  

If your phone keeps you tied to your desk, arrange a headset so you can move around the office and still answer calls.

#3 Change Your Commute

If you drive or take public transport to get to work, find other ways to increase the amount of exercise you get to and from work. It doesn’t need to be strenuous exercise, increasing the number of steps you take to and from work is a bonus. Think about how you can walk further or ride your bike to work. Encourage colleagues to do the same and have a Walk to Work Day. You could set up a competition to see which individual or team can increase their steps the most over a week or month. 


#4 Keep Count of Your Steps 

Most office workers don’t know how many steps they take each day, but the majority can tell you it’s not enough for good health. Use an app on your phone and carry it with you everywhere to track how many steps you take. Set yourself a target number of steps to do each day and track how often you achieve your target. Think of ways you can increase your steps at work and at home. Use a treadmill while you watch TV, set yourself a maximum limit for the time you allow yourself to sit on the lounge each night. Instead of sitting, do a few extra cleaning tasks each night rather than doing them all on the weekend. Organise to do some exercise with a friend rather than watching Netflix.   

#5 Bring Exercise to the Office 

It’s not always possible to get out for exercise during the workday, the weather might be too hot or cold or there’s limited opportunities for a relaxing walk nearby. Some workplaces have realised the benefits of employing someone to come into the office to take a yoga or pilates class for staff. 

For more information about standing up and sitting less at work, see BeUpstanding. If you need information about how ergonomic equipment can help with your workday, visit our showroom, call us on (08) 9240 7066 or contact us online.