Follow These Steps if You Have a Sedentary Job

A lot of people spend their workday seated. This can cause health problems over the long term, some of which are even surprising. Fortunately, there are routines that can help improve your situation.
Follow These Steps if You Have a Sedentary Job
Anna Vilarrasa

Written and verified by the nutritionist Anna Vilarrasa.

Last update: 15 December, 2022

Do you have a sedentary job?

The big problem facing people with sedentary jobs is that they spend a lot of time seated. In fact, the simple act of spending your workday seated is already a health risk on many different levels, whether or not you exercise regularly outside of work.

If this is the case with you, we advise you to follow these steps to improve reduce your risks.

How does a sedentary job affect your health?

In today’s job market, more and more people are doing office work and spending long hours sitting in front of a computer. For years, researchers have been studying the effects of this inactivity on people’s health.

Some consequences are very clear, and we’ve known about them for a long time: back and neck pain, muscle tension in your back, and even muscle contracture. However, other consequences haven’t been so clear until recently. This is most likely because their effects happen over the long term.

We know that spending too much time seated is associated with an increased risk of some diseases. These include obesity, type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, higher resistance to insulin, and lipid changes.

Read more: A Sedentary Lifestyle – Do You Need to Go to the Gym?

Steps to take for a healthier workday

Authorities are so worried about this reality that they’ve even published a special guide written in the United Kingdom. This guide contains recommendations for people with a sedentary job.

Some of the steps they recommend are as follows:

  • Spend a minimum of 2 hours of your workday standing. If possible, you should increase this to a total of 4 hours.
  • Workers should get up from their desks every once in a while and take a small walk.
  • Companies should provide desks that you can use sitting or standing. That way, you can change your position and reach two hours or more standing per day. This type of desk has been used for a while in Scandinavian countries.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator when possible.
  • Do stretches and rotations to loosen up your joints and prevent discomfort and future injuries.
Woman with a sedentary job, sitting in front of a computer with neck pain.
You should take some time to move around when you have an office job.

What else can you do during the day?

As we mentioned, the negative effects of having a sedentary job aren’t fixed with exercise outside your job. However, a lot of people lead a sedentary lifestyle outside their job, as well. Nowadays, a lack of physical activity is a dangerous reality, even in our free time.

The key is to move during your workday and outside of it. With just a few small daily steps, you can make your day more active:

  • Walk as much as possible, even if it’s to go to and return from work. If the distance is too far, you should try to use public transport instead of a private vehicle.
  • If you don’t walk to work, you can increase the distance you walk by getting off a stop early or parking a little ways away from your destination.
  • It’s crucial to find time to exercise. This could be at home, in a gym, or outside. Even short, 15-minute sessions can be beneficial.
  • When you spend time at home, or in your free time, try not to spend too much time seated or without moving.

Adapt your diet to your activity

Salad on desk next to phone and laptop.
Your diet is one of the habits you should change to combat the effects of a sedentary job.

Diet and exercise are two of the pillars of your health. If you can’t change your level of activity during the workday very much, you should put more emphasis on your diet to compensate. However, the main goal should be to reduce your sedentary lifestyle.

You should eat well and adapt your diet to your level of daily activity. We aren’t talking about “going on a diet” in the sense of restricting your calorie intake. However, your energy needs are different in a sedentary job than in a more active one.

The eating habits you should adopt are:

  • Base your daily diet on fresh produce, especially vegetables, leafy greens, and fruits. They are light and at the same time make you chew more, which makes you feel more full.
  • Make sure to include good sources of quality protein, like eggs, lean meat, fish, or tofu. Your muscles still need it, even if you don’t exercise. You shouldn’t leave these out of your lunch or dinner.
  • Adjust your carbohydrate intake to your level of physical activity.
  • Choose fruit and natural yogurts for dessert and eat snacks between meals.
  • Drink mostly water, avoiding energy drinks, sugary drinks, and fruit juices.

Discover: 6 Healthy Snacks You Can Bring to Work

Small steps are important if you have a sedentary job

To enjoy good health, physical activity is just as important as food, rest, and emotional well-being. You may not be able to change the nature of your job, but you can make some small changes that minimize the negative effects of a sedentary job.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

    • González-Gross M, Meléndez A. Sedentarism, active lifestyle and sport: Impact on health and obesity prevention. Nutrición Hospitalaria. Setiembre 2013. 28 Suppl 5: 89-98.
    • Guidance: The sedentary office: a growing case for change towards better health and productivity. Expert statement commissioned by Public Health England and the Active Working Community Interest Company. British Journal of  Sports Medicine. Junio 2015.
    • Lelva, AM et al.Sedentary lifestyle is associated with metabolic and cardiovascular risk factors independent of physical activity. Revista Médica de Chile. Abril 2017. 145(4):458-467.
    • Recomendaciones mundiales sobre actividad física para la salud. Organización Mundial de la Salud. 2010.
    • Smith L, et al. A review of occupational physical activity and sedentary behaviour correlates.Occupational medicine (Oxford, London). Abril 2016. 66(3):185-92.
    • Pérez, Betty M. “Salud: entre la actividad física y el sedentarismo.” An Venez Nutr 27.1 (2014): 119-28.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.