8 Ways to Stay Active If You Sit at Your Desk All Day

Most of us have a routine when it comes to our jobs: We go to meetings, check emails, and have around five cups of coffee in the span of seven to eight hours to get our work done. But in addition to your everyday responsibilities, I recommend adding one more task to your never-ending to-do list. (Trust me; it’s worth it.)

Sitting at a desk all day sounds like the norm. Because of technology, you literally never have to leave your chair for anything (unless, you know, you have to go to the bathroom). Want lunch? Order online. Need to hold a meeting? Use Skype. The possibilities are endless. And while the idea of hanging at your desk until 5 p.m. may sound like a dream, it’s actually pretty detrimental to your health. Aside from neck and back pain, it can increase your risk for heart disease, obesity, and even death from cardiovascular disease and cancer (yikes!). So, in an effort to be more health-conscious, here are eight small changes you can make at work to increase your activity and improve your overall health.

1. Take hourly breaks.

Sitting at your desk for hours and hours can really damage your health: Too much sitting is linked to heart disease, diabetes, and even dementia. And because sitting is the new smoking, it’s definitely a good idea to break the habit. Try getting up from your desk once an hour and moving around for about five minutes. This will activate muscles and promote blood flow. And if you’re someone who is fully consumed by your workload, set a timer for once an hour so you’re reminded to take breaks, even when you’re super busy.

2. Go out for lunch.

While ordering GrubHub directly to your office may sound amazing, eating and working at the same time doesn’t do wonders for your physical health. Take advantage of your hour break and walk to grab lunch instead of ordering in. You’ll move your muscles, get fresh air, and even have some time to chat with co-workers (rather than staring at your computer screen for hours on end). Sometimes it’s hard to take a break when you have a lot on your plate, but getting out of the office will refresh your body and your brain—even if it’s a 15-minute date with a park bench and your brown-bag lunch.

Source: A Cup of Jo

3. Stand instead of sit.

Just because you have a desk doesn’t mean you need to sit. As an alternative, elevate your computer with a riser so you can stand, or if that’s not an option, move to another spot in the office where there’s a taller platform for your computer. You can also invest in an ergonomic workstation or, if you’re really fancy, purchase a treadmill desk so you’re able to walk and work at the same time—because multitasking is such a #GIRLBOSS move.

4. Exercise for 10 minutes.

Some companies offer flexible work hours, and if you’re one of their lucky employees, use that extra time to exercise before, during, or after work. Physical activity can relieve stress by giving you a mental break, and as a consequence, you’ll feel happier and healthier. If you don’t have time for a class or a multi-mile run, a quick 10 minutes of movement can make a big impact—even if it’s jogging in place, some jumping jacks, or a few simple yoga poses.

5. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.

Like a drool-worthy cheeseburger, it’s hard to say “no” to taking the elevator. But honestly, there’s no easier way to get cardio in during your work week than by taking a few flights of stairs. As you can probably guess, opting for the stairs is good for your body: It increases your heart rate, improves your energy, and can increase the function of your immune system. Before you know it, you’ll be running up five flights and beating the elevator to the top.

Source: A Beautiful Mess

6. Sit on an exercise ball.

If, for whatever reason, you’re required to sit at your desk all day, switch out your chair for an exercise ball. Sitting in a chair requires no muscle activity (which does more harm than good), but using an exercise ball forces you to sit up straight, strengthen your core, and tone your muscles. While it’s not recommended you sit on the ball all day, when inflated properly, it offers many more benefits than a regular old chair.

7. Offer to walk company pets in a pet-friendly office.

Working in a pet-friendly office has its perks, like boosting creativity, reducing stress levels, and improving employees’ overall health. Company pets also force employees to take much-needed breaks. So, whether it’s your dog or a co-worker’s, taking a furry friend out every few hours gives you a valid excuse to get out of the office and move.

8. Switch up your commute.

If you can’t pull yourself away from your desk during the day, consider changing up your commute. Depending on how far you live from the office, biking or running to work can be great alternatives—and as a result, you won’t feel guilty for sitting at your desk all day. (But please be sure to move every few hours like we outlined in Tip No.1!) If biking or running isn’t an option, try getting off the train a stop early, walking in lieu of the bus, or simply parking farther away from the entrance. Every step counts, so switch things up!

Are you planning on sitting less at your desk? What do you think about the phrase “sitting is the new smoking?”

  • CTS

    This is a great article! I’m an interior designer that works in commercial design, specializing mostly in workplace projects. Studies have shown that sitting all day can cause weight gain by slowing your metabolism, as well as making you far less productive every day. You should always try to get up move throughout the day… if it’s just to get water from the break room or walking to a printer that is a little further from your desk.

    One thing I think that is important to add to this is that IF you decide to stand while you work, please please please do not switch from sitting all day to standing all day! Standing all day is just as bad for your as sitting all day. You should only be standing 10 to 15 minutes every hour.

  • These are great tips! I sit too much, and am trying to incorporate more movement into my daily routine. Thanks for shining some light on the dangers of sedentary routines.


  • Nikki Laraja

    Great tips, I work from home/ sit at a desk everyday. I try my best to get up every half hour for 2-3 min (it works really well bc Ill actually straighten up a tiny bit each time, and by the end of the day, I have a clean apt!)


  • Natalie Gough

    “Sitting is the new Smoking” is so crazy ans scary! But so true at the same time!! I used to work in retail while in college and didn’t think twice about some of the things i ate, thinking i was ok. I didn’t realized it was because i stood all day at work and walked around like crazy!! Now that I have a desk job, it’s harder for me to maintain my weight with what i eat. I never noticed how much just standing at work all day really does a wonder on your body.

  • Donna Belle Ibarra

    Such wonderful tips! Thank you for sharing this! I will definitely keep this in mind moving forward.


  • Ana

    It is eerie how well the Everygirl always knows what content I’m looking for! These tips are super helpful for someone like me whose job requires me to sit at a desk all day.

  • Paige Carpenter

    What great tips! Just getting started at my first desk job, it’s been a struggle for me to have the energy to stay active. Something as simple as walking around or doing a few squats every hour though can make all the difference in the world!

  • Hanny

    While standing is great, please also incorporate some sort of movement. Either go for a quick walk to the break room or bathroom, or do some stretch at your desk. Standing after a while can also become harmful. Get some sort of active desk mat so you can switch your standing position and stretch your lower body. I do core exercise time to time with my office chair

  • These are all great tips. A couple of others I’d like to add from personal experience:

    -If you have one-on-one meetings and the other person doesn’t object, make it a walking meeting—go out and get some fresh air instead of booking a meeting room.
    -Drink water out of a smaller cup or glass that needs to be refilled often. That way it forces you to get up about every hour or so!

  • I am sitting all day and its having an effect on my back! thanks for the tips!

  • Orion Cochrane

    Thank you for these suggestions!

  • Natalie Redman

    Definitely need to do this since I sit at a desk all day!