How To Prevent Health Risks Of A Desk Job?

Sitting at work
Exercises While Sitting At Work

A typical desk job has an employee sitting at work for about 7-8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Between work and home, we spend at least 10-13 hours sitting a day. Prolonged sitting at work can pose several health risks.

Dangers of Prolonged Sitting At Work

  1. It can increase your risk of cardio metabolic and type 2 diabetes [1]. Slow metabolism reduces the amount of food being converted to energy, leading to fat accumulation. It also decreases levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and decreased insulin sensitivity.
  2. According to as study by  Loughborough University and the University of Leicester, it is related to heart risk [2].
  3. It has deleterious cardiovascular and metabolic effects that are independent of whether the adults meet physical activity guidelines [3].
  4. According to the University of Sydney’s School of Public Health in Australia, it can disrupt metabolic function resulting in increased plasma triglyceride levels which is linked to abdominal obesity [4].
  5. It is also estimated that physical inactivity as in desk jobs may cause breast cancer and colon cancer 10% worldwide [5].
  6. Sitting at work for extended periods of time, especially with a wrong posture causes strain in your neck and back.
  7. It can slow down blood circulation in the legs. This may lead to risk of varicose veins and dangerous blood clots [6].
  8. It is linked to fatigue and de-motivation [7].

How To Prevent Health Risks Of Desk Jobs

1. Walk Around Frequently

Walk around your office, to the lunch room or take a small stroll outside. Set a timer on your desk to get up and walk around for 5 minutes after an hour of sitting. You can make it a point to walk around while talking on the phone. You can also have a walking meetings; apparently Steve jobs was known for his walking meetings!


According to a new study by Stanford, walking also boosts creative inspiration [8].

[Read: Office Yoga: 5 Office-Friendly Yoga tips]


2. Re-Organize Your Office

Keep your printer and photocopy machine in a room far away from the desks, preferably on another floor altogether. Design your water cooler and coffee area such that people can stand and converse.

Standing desks in meetings and conference rooms can help the circulation flowing in your legs. You must also create a space where employees can conveniently perform stretching exercises. Make your office environment active!


3. Exercise At Your Desk

If your office is small or walking around office is not your thing, not to worry! There are several desk yoga and stretching exercises that you can do right at your desk to soothe those stiff muscles.

sitting at work
Exercises To Do While Sitting At Work
desk exercise
Exercises To Do While Sitting At Work
desk exercise
Exercises To Do While Sitting At Work



5. Use Standing or Walking Desks

standing desk
Exercises To Do While Sitting At Work

Standing desks can help relieve stress on the spine, improve lower body strength, improve blood circulation and correct sitting-related postural problems. Standing desks also make it easier for you to move around.


According to a meta analysis study published in the Journal of Preventive Medicine, standing desks (including sit-stand desks) and walking desks have clear physiological and psychological benefits [9]. Physiological benefits include increased heart rate and noticeable weight loss, reduction in girth and bad cholesterol reduction. Psychological benefits included improvement in mood and energy and reduction in stress levels, fatigue and depression indicators.

Organizations like Nike, Motorola and Johnson & Johnson have already started using this concept. Facebook has more than 250 employees using standing desks!



  1. Dunstan, David W., et al. “Too much sitting at work–a health hazard.” Diabetes research and clinical practice 97.3 (2012): 368-376.
  2. Wilmot, Emma G., et al. “Sedentary time in adults and the association with diabetes, cardiovascular disease and death: systematic review and meta-analysis.” Diabetologia 55 (2012): 2895-2905.
  3. Hamilton, Marc T., et al. “Too little exercise and too much sitting at work: inactivity physiology and the need for new recommendations on sedentary behavior.”Current cardiovascular risk reports 2.4 (2008): 292-298.
  4. Despres, J. P., et al. “Relation of high plasma triglyceride levels associated with obesity and regional adipose tissue distribution to plasma lipoprotein-lipid composition in premenopausal women.” Clinical and investigative medicine. Medecine clinique et experimentale 12.6 (1989): 374-380.
  5. Lee, I-Min, et al. “Effect of physical inactivity on major non-communicable diseases worldwide: an analysis of burden of disease and life expectancy.” The lancet 380.9838 (2012): 219-229.
  6. Brand, F. N., et al. “The epidemiology of varicose veins: the Framingham Study.” American journal of preventive medicine 4.2 (1987): 96-101.
  7. May Wong, Stanford Study finds walking improves creativity, Stanford University
  8. Gilson, Nicholas D., et al. “Occupational sitting time: employees? perceptions of health risks and intervention strategies.” Health Promotion Journal of Australia 22.1 (2011): 38-43.
  9. MacEwen, Brittany T., Dany J. MacDonald, and Jamie F. Burr. “A systematic review of standing and treadmill desks in the workplace.” Preventive medicine 70 (2015): 50-58.

Edited by Pragya Sharoff