The Negative Effects of Prolonged Sitting and Workplace Tips From Pro Staff Physical Therapy

Prolonged sitting has been described as the new smoking by many media outlets in recent years. Though this may seem exaggerated, it carries some degree of truth once you look more closely.

From the commute to work, to the office chair and then the couch at home, people are spending more time seated than ever, and research shows that is wreaking havoc on our bodies. A 2014 study by the American Heart Association involving over 84,000 participants, aged 45-69, found that men who spend five or more hours a day sitting were 34% more likely to develop heart failure than men who sit less than two hours a day outside work. The American Physical Therapy Association recommends two to four hours of standing and light activity during the workday

Cigarettes were not thought to cause of lung cancer or other serious diseases until the 1950s. There was even a time in history where cigarette brands had phrases like “doctor-recommended” in their advertisements. Like the cigarette industry in the 1920s, the effects of prolonged sitting throughout the workday has largely been ignored and understudied until recently.

To gain further insight on this workplace epidemic, let’s look at why prolonged sitting is a problem and what we can do to correct our posture while sitting at the desk as well as some tips to increase physical activity while at work.

Prevent Prolonged Sitting with Standing Desks

Standing desks are a popular workplace trend and are pretty self-explanatory. Instead of prolonged sitting for the duration of the workday, the user can adjust the height of the desk to accommodate a standing or sitting position. There are also desk converters that allow you turn your existing desk into a standing one without having to buy all new office furniture.

Using a standing desk can provide you with breaks from sitting without requiring you to move from your comfortable work surroundings. If you choose to use a standing desk, remember to use the standing feature frequently.

Take Walking Breaks When Possible

Does your job require you to work in a stationary position? There are many ways that you can integrate some standing and movement into your workday without drastically interrupting your usual work routine.

Some ideas to break from prolonged sitting at work are: taking a standing or walking break from working every 20-30 minutes, doing a lap around the office, jogging up a few flights of stairs, walking to get lunch, and stretching. It is important to do whatever you can to add some movement into your nine-to-five. Small changes each day can help prevent the harmful effects of prolonged sitting and assist with improved circulation and posture.

Proper Posture for Sitting at Your Desk:

Set your desk chair so your feet are flat on the floor, your knees equal to, or slightly lower than your hips with your hips pushed as far back as possible. Support your upper and lower back with a rolled towel and adjust the back of your chair to about a 100-degree reclined angle.  Your computer screen should be directly in front of you, with the top of the screen positioned approximately 2-3 inches above eye level and sit at an arm’s length away from the screen. Lastly, if possible adjust the armrests so that your shoulders are relaxed.

We can discuss ergonomics until we’re blue in the face, but even the most perfectly set workstation will not protect your body from the prolonged, static postures that most jobs “demand.”

Integrating more standing and movement into your daily routine at work can drastically improve your health and well-being. Do you feel pain or discomfort as a result of your prolonged sitting in the workplace? Make an appointment with your nearest Pro Staff location by requesting one online or by calling one of our locations nearest you.

This post was authored by Dr. Travis Fahey, PT, DPT at Pro Staff Physical Therapy. 

Pro Staff Institute, LLC, has a network of outpatient physical rehabilitation centers in New Jersey. Pro Staff was founded in 2010 by Frank Pavlisko and Michael Maffucci. Through Frank’s 25 plus years experience in Physical Therapy and Michael’s experience in Management Services, our goal is to exceed customer expectations by providing the highest quality of service in a fun, family, friendly, and encouraging environment.


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