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Prolonged sitting has been declared the new smoking. Health experts have linked sitting to serious health issues like increased blood sugar, increased blood pressure, obesity, and excess body fat around your waist.
Too much sitting has also been connected to the risks of cardiovascular diseases, some types of cancer, and even premature death!
If you’re an office worker who spends more than 8 hours at your desk, you’re at higher risk of these terrifying health problems.
And you should avoid sitting for long periods in your office chair to reduce the risk of these conditions.
But precisely how many hours a day should you sit in your office chair? Below, we give you the full details of how long is too long to sit at your desk.
How many hours a day should you spend standing?
You should stand for at least two hours in your 8-hour workday and increase it to 4 hrs as you get used to the new standing working position.
However, you shouldn’t stand for two hours straight; instead, you must take breaks from sitting every 15 to 30 minutes so that the total time you spend off your chair adds up to at least 2 hours.
This is a great way to ensure you don’t sit for extended periods and risk the terrifying health issues connected to too much sitting.
The average office worker today sits for more than eight hours. They spend these long periods in front of the computer doing various things, whether making calls, responding to emails, writing proposals, etc.
As if that’s not enough, they continue this sedentary behavior at home when they sit down for more hours to watch the TV, eat lunch, surf the web, etc.
What the researchers say:
Many studies have been carried and all point out the dangers of prolonged sitting time. These put you at a higher risk of heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer, muscle, and joint problems, deep vein thrombosis, and even depression.
Some studies have even declared that your office chair is worse for your health than smoking (ever heard sitting is the new smoking? That’s it!) and kills more people than HIV! (Source).
For a long time, office workers have always wondered how much they should sit in their office chairs to prevent the health risks of sedentary behavior.
But that has now been settled, thanks to researchers’ formal suggestions on the amount of time to sit or stand to stay healthy.
According to an expert statement by the British Journal of Sports Medicine, you should move, stand, or take a break from your office chair for at least 2 hours in your 8-hour workday.
But that’s not all. You should also ensure you spend at least half your eight-hour work day in light-intensity activities.
Move more! Stay active!
Active working, an intentional group focused on reducing excessive sitting, through their director Gavin Bradley also emphasizes the need to ensure you spend at least 2 hrs of your work day NOT sitting.
They recommend sit/stand desks as a way to spend less time sitting. But they also explain that you can engage in other simple activities for the 2 hours you’ll be off your chair. These physical activity ideas include:
- take your calls while standing
- walk around
- hold standing meetings
- hold walking meetings
- walk over to your colleague’s desk instead of sending them an e-mail
- use the stairs instead of the elevator
- take a lunch break
(More tips on reducing the time you spend sitting later in this guide. Keep tuned in!)
The World Health Organization estimates that up to 95% of the adults in the world population are inactive and fail to meet the minimum healthy lifestyle recommendation of 30 minutes or half hours of moderation to intensive physical activity 5 times every week.
This is because the world has become more sedentary in recent years, whether it’s due to the desk job, using buses and cars instead of bicycles or walking.
The rise of leisure pursuits such as watching television and playing games has also turned people into couch potatoes.
How does prolonged sitting affect your body?
You usually spend less energy when sitting than when you’re standing or moving. As we mentioned earlier, prolonged sitting—whether at your desk, behind the wheel, or in front of the screen—has been linked to various health concerns.
These include excess body fat around your waist, high blood sugar, and increased blood pressure.
All these conditions contribute to what is referred to as metabolic syndrome . This is simply a cluster of conditions that put you at risk of suffering from diabetes, heart diseases, and strokes.
Note that your metabolism usually slows down by up to 90% in just 30 minutes of sitting. The enzyme responsible for moving bad fat from the arteries to the muscles (where it gets burned off) slows down.
Muscles in your lower body get turned off. And after approx. 2 hrs, the good cholesterol in your body drops by 20%. If you can just get up for 5 minutes, you’ll get your system up and running again.
Too much sitting can cause early death!
An analysis of 13 studies revolving around sitting time and activity levels showed that individuals who sit for more than 8 hrs every day without physical activity had a higher risk of dying, similar to the risk of mortality connected to smoking and obesity.
Contrary to other studies, however, this analysis involving data from 1 plus million people also found that engaging in 60-75 minutes of moderately intense physical activity can help you counter the effects of too much sitting.
Another study also showed that how long you sit contributed little to the mortality risk for people who lead an active lifestyle.
Though more studies are still being conducted on the effects of sedentariness and physical activity on your health, it’s crystal clear that reducing your sitting time and moving more will go a long way in helping you lead a healthier life.
And this brings us to our next subtopic on how you can reduce prolonged sitting hours…
How can you reduce excessive sitting in your workspace?
We have repeatedly stressed that prolonged sitting can be dangerous to your health. But the good thing is that you can save yourself from the life-threatening health problems of a sedentary lifestyle by spending less time sitting.
The tips below will help you combat sitting for prolonged periods:
Take frequent breaks
One of the best ways to spend less time sitting is by taking frequent breaks. So, how often should you take a break from sitting?
You should take a break from sitting every 30 minutes. Walking while taking a break can be a static activity that turns into a small form of exercise.
Doing this can help significantly cut down on the time you spend sitting.
Stand while working
Another way to beat the sitting disease is to start standing while working in your home office or workspace.
This is made possible by an office standing desk that allows changing positions to sit or stand when working.
Not only does the standing desk help you reduce sitting time, but it also offers you multiple other benefits. For instance, it lets you correct your posture or maintain a good one without trying.
When standing, you engage your muscles and can easily stretch and move around without getting off your work area. Standing while working also boosts your productivity.
TIP: Some modern standing desks available today let you program them to notify you when to change your posture at your desired time intervals, say after every 15-30 minutes. This great feature ensures you don’t sit excessively and suffer the health risks of a sedentary lifestyle.
Consider some physical activities
You may also consider adding some moderate-intensity physical activity to your daily routine as a way of cutting down on too much sitting.
These simple activities go a long way in reducing time in your office chair. For instance, consider making phone calls or writing text messages while standing.
You may also consider walking over to your colleague’s workspace instead of calling or texting them.
Some office workers also place a treadmill or desk bike underneath their desks to keep them active throughout the day.
Final Verdict – How Many Hours Should You Sit
It’s no longer a secret that spending long periods sitting can expose your body to multiple health issues, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood sugar, increased hypertension, cardiovascular disease, cancer, deep vein thrombosis, and early death.
This is why it’s crucial to monitor how much time you spend sitting. As discussed in the above guide, you should stand for at least 2 hrs in your 8-hour workday. And try to push it to 4 hours so you can sit for 4 hrs and get up 4 hrs in a typical 8-hour workday. This will save you from the sitting disease and its consequences.
Using a sit-stand desk, exercising, and taking breaks from your ergonomic office chairs are effective ways to cut down on your sitting time and shield your body from the life-threatening effects of prolonged sitting.