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Can I Exercise My Way Out of My Sedentary Job?

Man sitting at desk in front of the computer
Sitting at a desk job

One of the most common questions I get from my clients is how much do I need to exercise to combat the effects of my mostly sedentary work life? Let’s face it, finding time to exercise is a challenge for all of us – even those of us who actually like to exercise! Compound that with the fact that many of use spend hours a day sitting at a desk behind a computer.

Post COVID, many of us work from home, which means we do not even commute to the office, get outside for lunch, or even get up to socialize with colleagues. Our “commute” from our bedroom to our in-home office, also means that many of us have longer work days, as we don’t “sign off” at the office and head home. I have found many of my clients, as well as myself, no longer have colleagues or clients who respect the idea of office hours. Therefore, calls and meetings often extend well beyond the old normal business hours.

We have likely all heard it said…sitting is the new smoking!

This phrase was coined by Dr. James Levine, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic. This includes any form of extended sitting, namely time spent in the car or on a train, working at your desk all day, extended time playing video games, etc.

Research has shown that sitting for long periods of time is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, depression, as well as anxiety. Further, “chronic sitters” tend to have tight hip flexors and weaker legs, which as we age can result in a higher risk of falling.

Historically, researchers have indicated that exercise alone is not enough to counter the effects of a sedentary lifestyle and for sure, the more we can move the better! However, a research study delved more deeply into just how much exercise we need to do to offset sitting much of the day. The results suggest that about 30-40 minutes per day of building up a sweat should do it. In fact, according to this study, “up to 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity every day is about the right amount to balance out 10 hours of sitting still, the research says – although any amount of exercise or even just standing up helps to some extent.”

For some people, this may seem like a lot, however, think of exercise more as movement, which is cumulative throughout the day. There are many things you can do to break-up sitting all day, which can also be profoundly beneficial both physically and mentally.

These include things like:

●        standing rather than sitting on public transport

●        walking to work

●        taking walks during lunch breaks

●        setting reminders to stand up every 30 minutes when working at a desk.

●        investing in a standing desk or asking the workplace to provide one.

●        taking a walk or standing up during coffee or tea breaks

●        spending more time doing chores around the house, especially DIY or gardening

●        making excuses to leave the office or move around the building.

●        taking phone calls outside and walking around at the same time

●        getting up and walking around during television commercials

●        taking the stairs instead of using the elevator


Get creative!! Find fun ways to incorporate more movement into your daily life. Get moving!!

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