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Side effects of staying sedentary at work that hurt your health

Lana Bandoim's picture

Does your job force you to be sedentary, and are you aware of the impact this has on your health?


The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently published a report showing the top most common professions in the United States, and office clerks were among the top five occupations listed in the study. While office jobs can be rewarding, they can also come with unpleasant side effects due to their mostly sedentary nature. If your job requires you to sit for long periods of time, then you need to be aware of the impact it is having on your health.

1. Chronic pain

Sitting for long periods of time on a regular basis can lead to chronic pain. The discomfort that is commonly associated with a sedentary lifestyle includes lower back pressure and pain in the muscles, joints and tendons. This pain is primarily due to a bad sitting posture that puts excessive strain on various parts of the body.

2. Obesity

Office workers have a higher risk of becoming obese than more active professionals due to their low energy expenditures. When the body’s large muscle groups are not regularly used, the ability to burn calories is minimized. Over time, extended inactive periods can lead to weight gain or obesity in severe cases. It is difficult for many office workers to find the time or motivation to stay active and exercise.

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3. Slower metabolism

The body’s metabolism tends to slow down during long periods of inactivity. People with slow metabolisms are more likely to suffer from chronic fatigue, weight gain, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. As you sit at your desk, your blood sugar levels can also get worse, and researchers note that insulin resistance is a big problem for office workers.

4. Anxiety and mental health problems

A 2015 study conducted by researchers at the Australian-based Deakin University Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research reveals the effects that sitting all day can have on the mind. According to the research, engaging in sedentary activities for long periods of time can hurt your mental acuity and increase anxiety levels. Sitting at your desk every day can also increase the risk of depression.

5. What you can do to combat these side effects

As troubling as it is to read about the common side effects of a sedentary lifestyle, there are things you can do to improve your physical and mental health while working in an office. Taking frequent, short breaks from work to perform simple standing desk exercises can reduce the risk of experiencing chronic pain, obesity or a slower metabolism. Additionally, taking time to stretch and move frequently can help facilitate blood flow and improve your mood. Caring for your physical and mental health is worth a few minutes of your time each hour, so set your alarm and aim to perform simple desk exercises every 15 to 20 minutes at your job.