How to sit less at your desk


Easy ways to move more and stay healthy

Desk workers on average will spend 75% of their working day sat down and if you apply that to a typical eight hour working day, that totals to six hours of sitting, most of which is often prolonged. We are supporting the On your Feet Britain campaign this year by advocating for the reduction of prolonged workplace sitting.

In this blog post we share the negative health impacts of too much sitting, and offer some simple solutions to the problem. This includes stretches, standing, and walking that can be completed in as little as a couple of minutes at a time. Improve your physical health, fitness, as well as your wellbeing and productivity when you move more and sit less.

Why prolonged sitting is bad for your health

Too much sitting and being inactive can gradually have a serious impact on your health over time. Research published by the NHS has revealed that being inactive can lead to higher blood pressure, increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and makes you more likely to suffer from some types of cancer. A risk that may be shocking to learn is that prolonged sitting can slow the metabolism, which means the body struggles to regulate blood sugar, blood pressure, and break down body fat. This can often lead to weight gain which can in turn lead to more serious health issues such as obesity. It is estimated that over a quarter of all adults in the UK are obese according to the latest UK health survey, which in part is a result of desk based working.

How much should you be moving?

To reduce the health risks outlined of prolonged sitting, the NHS recommends that we should be exercising for at least 150 minutes a week and reduce sitting time. 150 minutes can seem daunting at first but if you break it down that could be half an hour for five days a week or a little over 20 minutes every day. If you sit at a desk for the whole day, you should be aiming to move every hour. A good rule of thumb is to schedule in movement every hour, for a minimum of three minutes. Set a reoccurring alarm on your phone to remind you.


How can standing more improve your health?

Standing more burns extra calories, therefore reducing the risk of obesity and heart disease. An extra three hours standing each day will burn approximately eight pounds of fat or 144 calories. A simple switch to help keep your weight and cardiovascular health stable.

Moving more also benefits your mental health. It improves mood and wellbeing, increases energy, and improves focus and ability to be more productive. Sitting less and moving more can keep you feeling good, working more efficiently, and keep you in physically good health.

How can you stand more in your day?

Schedule time for standing into your day. A whole host of activities during the working day offer the opportunity to stand instead of sit. Try and incorporate some of these ideas into your habits:

  • Taking a business call standing up which will also help increase concentration and levels of engagement
  • Standing up on public transport during your commute to/from the office
  • Standing up whilst developing ideas or a plan for a project which will also help with concentration and creativity
  • Use a standing desk


Make sure to stand up at least once every hour to activate your body, your circulation, and burn some more calories at the same time. Top tip: stand up straight and centre your feet below your hips with your head held high. This is the correct posture for standing, which also helps to tone muscles.

The health benefits of a standing desk

The majority of tasks for desk based workers require the use of a laptop or computer and due to the conventional desk and chair set up it forces a large amount of sitting down. This is where the standing desk comes in. The flexibility to adjust the height so you can stand for a period of time but sit down when you need to. Your work doesn’t need to be interrupted, when you want to stand. It is key here to gradually build up the amount of time you spend standing even as little as 30 minutes a day to start with. According to scientific research, moving every 30 minutes is essential for your health. Flexidesk are popular for their innovative standing desks. There are plenty of options out there to suit the office, the home office, as well as different budgets.

How can stretching help?

Whilst you’re standing, make the most of activating and moving your body, and improving your posture by building in some quick stretches. It is important to move your body frequently and not hold one position for a long period of time. Harvard Medical School research concluded that stretching helps with keeping your muscles healthy and strong and reduces the risk of joint pain and muscle injury.

What stretches can you do at your desk?

Stretches can be done right at your desk, try the following:

The essentials: For every half hour spent working or every intense period make sure to stretch your hands by rotating them clockwise and anti-clockwise, stretch out your fingers, and rotate your neck and roll your shoulders.


Stretching for the chair: your swivelling office chair is perfect for stretching your obliques or in other words your stomach muscles. All you need to do is spin yourself as far as you can to one side using your hands, then switch over, and repeat ten times on each side.

Stretching whilst you’re standing: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and rest your palms against a wall at shoulder height. Take a few steps back and slowly bend your arms at the elbows whilst engaging your stomach. Lower yourself until you are close to the wall then back up to the starting position. Aim for ten rotations of the wall press.

Yoga at your desk: Do not fear, we are not talking about complex poses and needing a yoga mat. There are plenty of simple yoga stretches that you can achieve at your desk such as bringing your upper body down whilst sat in your chair and lifting your arms up towards the sky for a full stretch. Check out the ’yoga at your desk’ session with Yoga with Adrienne to learn more stretches.

How can walking help?

Walking for as little as ten minutes has a whole host of health benefits including maintaining a healthy weight and keeping your bones and muscles strong. Did you know that it can also improve your sleep and your mood and increase energy levels too?

How can you walk more in your working day?

Aiming for a ten minute daily walk is a realistic goal to start with when building more walking into your day. You could try adding more walking to your commute to the office, walking around the office or your home, or going on a lunchtime walk around your home or office. Even if you are located in a town or city, there are plenty of places for a great walk such as parks, riverside paths, and nature reserves. 


Walking motivation: challenges and groups

Fancy a challenge to keep yourself motivated? There are a whole host of free resources available. The NHS have a free app, Active 10, which you can download on your smartphone. The app can track how fast you are walking and will assess if your walking speed qualifies as brisk walking.

Fancy walking but looking to socialise too? A walking group can be a great way to combine a social mood-boost whilst improving your fitness. The ramblers have groups across UK towns and cities, and you can find your local group here.

Insurers: fitness plans, gym discounts, and fitness product offers

Moving more and sitting less is so important for maintaining your fitness and a healthy body and mind. Gaining support from fitness experts when it comes to establishing an exercise routine or fitness plan offers huge benefits. It can increase your chance of staying motivated and give you access to bespoke exercises that suit your fitness levels and needs. Usay Compare are partnered with market leading insurers who offer incredible fitness plans and discounts for gym memberships.

Bupa: current offers include 40% off monthly gym memberships with Hussle, 10% off health assessments, and 20% off Fitbit products.

AXA: current offers include discounted fitness memberships, 24/7 fitness online membership option, and no annual contracts.

Vitality: current offers up to 50% off a monthly membership at Nuffield Health gyms and an Apple Watch offer through qualifying health insurance plans with a points system where the more you move, the less you will pay.

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