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Beyond Exercise: Keeping Healthy at Your Desk Job

Feb. 9, 2016
Working in an office can be bad for the health of employees, who often adopt sedentary behavior.

Exercise alone isn’t enough activity to maintain a healthy body, researchers found.

Adults are sedentary for 64 percent of the time they’re awake, according to a recent report by Ball State University. That means that for nearly two-thirds of their waking hours are spent sitting or lying down.

“Our study found that most adults simply aren’t moving, and that’s because many of our jobs are done in a seated position while working at a computer or something similar,” said Alex Montoye, a clinical exercise physiology professor in Ball State’s Human Performance Laboratory.

And then, once workers go home, they spend their free time in front of a screen – TV, smart phone, computer.

“Being less sedentary is different than being more active,” Montoye said. “Just because a person exercises for a half hour or hour every day doesn’t just mean they can be sedentary the rest of the time…We have to get up and get moving throughout the day to maintain good health.”

Even standing up and moving around for one to two minutes every 30 to 60 minutes breaks up sedentary behavior. And adults need to be more active and less sedentary to achieve good health, he said.

Sedentary behavior can put someone at increased risk for obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, colon and rectal cancer and premature death.

The research team offers a few tips to reduce sedentary behavior:

  • Take a short walk around the office or home once an hour.
  • Speak to a colleague in person instead of on the phone or the computer.
  • Stand up while on a phone call.
  • Use a standing desk.
  • Do short bursts of exercise for a minute each hour while watching TV or working on a computer.

“Since we live in a society where work is now done at a desk, it is very important that we make small changes in our daily habits,” Montoye said. “Those little changes will make a big difference over time.”

The study, “Variability of Objectively Measured Sedentary Behavior,” used data from about 300 adults who participated in research at Ball State’s Clinical Exercise Physiology Laboratory in the past several years.

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