American Osteopathic Association

Advancing the distinctive philosophy and practice of osteopathic medicine

Standing Up for Your Health

Woman sitting at deskIs your desk job a health hazard? According to research, a sedentary lifestyle or long periods sitting over time can take a toll on your health. Researchers have found that a sedentary life could be just as dangerous, if not more so, than smoking. People who work in sedentary jobs for 10 or more years double their risk of bowel cancer and are more likely to develop heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Laura M. Rosch, DO, an osteopathic internal medicine physician from Winfield, Illinois, details the full impact of a sedentary lifestyle on your well-being and provides tips to prevent health problems so you can live a longer, healthier life. 

Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, or DOs, look beyond your symptoms to understand how lifestyle and environmental factors affect your wellbeing. They listen and partner with you to help prevent injury and encourage your body’s natural tendency toward self-healing.

What are the effects of a sedentary work life?

“Extended periods of sitting, typically at work, can affect every part of your being,” says Dr. Rosch. “When you sit for long stretches of time, your body stops working as effectively as it can. The more regular this routine, the higher the risk of developing health problems that are detrimental to your overall health,” she explains. The list of potential health problems resulting from a sedentary work life range from mental to physical and can last for several years. According to Dr. Rosch, in time, a sedentary lifestyle can cause many health problems, including: 

  • Mental Problems: Stress, anxiety, exhaustion, depression and disordered sleep.

  • Eye Problems: Eye strain, temporary blurred vision, headaches and migraines.

  • Heart Problems: High blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, stroke, angina and heart attack.

  • Limb Problems: Loss of muscle mass, loss of flexibility, carpal tunnel syndrome and hand/wrist tendinitis.

  • Posture Problems: Loss of flexibility, rotator cuff disease, pulmonary disease and chronic pain in the neck, shoulder, back or hand.

  • Back Problems: Thoracic outlet syndrome, ruptured disks, and pulled or strained muscles/ligaments.

  • Gut Problems: Weight gain, metabolic syndrome, diabetes and impaired libido.

Healthy Tips to Implement During Your Workday

To reduce your risk factor for multiple health problems, Dr. Rosch encourages people to adopt healthier routines. “It doesn’t take much to improve your health. A minimum of 10 minutes of moderate- or vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise is enough to get your heart pumping and burn calories,” explains Dr. Rosch. She suggests physical activities such as:

  • Taking the stairs between meetings or taking breaks to walk the stairs for five to 10 minutes.

  • Walking to a co-worker’s desk, instead of emailing or calling.

  • Stretching at your desk every 30 minutes.

  • Biking or walking to work, or taking the long way to the train or bus stop.

“Healthy eating and exercise are the best antidotes for a sedentary lifestyle,” says Dr. Rosch. “Commit to healthy choices and your body will thank you for it.”

Staying Fit for Life

The average office worker is at a higher risk of early mortality due to prolonged periods of sitting at a desk. “Exchanging unhealthy meals for healthier options and adding physical activities to your workday can change your prognosis,” says Dr. Rosch. “The road to a healthier lifestyle is paved with good choices. How you treat your body today sets the tone for your long-term health.


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