Don't let sitting all day kill you — 5 easy ways to keep moving at your desk

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By Meghan Holohan

Working at an office job and then bingeing on “Orange Is the New Black” may be a deadly combo. A new study by German researchers finds sitting too much is the new smoking — raising your risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer. And the risk increased with each two-hour period of sitting time.

“If you are sitting for six hours a day or more it increases the risk factors for a variety of things,” says Dr. David Geier, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist in Charleston, South Carolina, who was not involved in the study. 

There’s more bad news: Even if you exercise for 30 minutes a day, that 30 minutes does not [counteract the sitting], says Geier.

But there are simple ways that people can counteract the negative effects of too much time on your behind. You need to stand up at least once an hour, if not every half hour, and move.

“I wouldn’t do that in exchange with a regular period of exercise at the end of the day,” he cautions.

Both Geier and TODAY’s Jenna Wolfe have suggestions on how to add movement in the day.

Workout at your desk (or on the couch)

Just because you are corralled in an office doesn’t mean you can’t move. All it takes is 10-minute exercise break throughout the day. It can be as easy as doing push ups beside the desk.

When Geier has a day without patients, he sets his fitness band to vibrate every 30 minutes if he hasn’t moved. When he gets the reminder, he’ll pick up the kettle ball beside the desk and does some reps. He also says that people can easily do wall squats or use small weights to do a few reps at their desks.  

Wolfe provides a variety of workouts for the office or couch. She suggests an easy 10-minute workout that anyone can do at their desk, which includes 50 stand-ups, squatting into your chair; 100 arm rolls forward, 100 backward, 100 with palms up, and 100 forward (you might remember these from elementary school gym class); 20 paper clip pick ups (a sneaky way of squatting); and 10 to 15 desk push ups.


Geier says that an easy way that folks can include more activity in the workday is by walking—take the long way to the printer, meander to a coworker’s desk instead of emailing, or hold the meeting out outside the boardroom.

“If you have a meeting, instead of sitting around the conference table, you walk around the table … it is probably more fun and you pay more attention,” he says.

Sit on a stability ball

Sitting on a stability ball, instead of in an office chair, can be an easy way to increase activity. To sit balanced on the ball (instead of rolling and wobbling around), people need to engage their core muscles. While people are sitting on the ball, they are working on their abs, explains Geier.

Take a stand

Standing desks keep employees on their feet, instead planted in their chairs. Even if your office doesn’t have standing desks, get on your feet to work. Take a phone call and walk around the office or stand when reading emails, Geier says. If it is possible, opt for a treadmill desk, which uses a special treadmill that runs slowly so people are walking as they work, he adds.

Find an excuse for the stairs

“I am a huge advocate of stairs,” says Geier.

Simply taking the stairs to and from your office every time you leave can have a real impact on your activity level, he adds.

Use the stairs in your office as a quick way to work out—if you have a few minutes walk up a few flights and then back to your office.