What Is Active Sitting and Should You Try It?

man standing at computer doing leg stretches
Regular breaks for walking, stretching, and strength can help you stay healthy in the workplace.

by Mary Lambkin

Stuck at the office for eight or more hours a day? You're not alone! But the number of hours we log staying put in our chairs could be taking a harmful toll on our overall health. In fact, many are calling sitting the new smoking! This is where "active sitting" comes in.

Active sitting is a growing trend in offices that can help you stay healthy and avoid the dangers of spending too much stationary time in your seat! Increase your core strength, reduce the burden on your back, and keep your cardiovascular fitness in check by spicing up your sitting routine with regular walk breaks, different sitting positions, and intervals of standing.

What Is Active Sitting?

Active sitting helps break up extended sedentary periods with low-impact, low-intensity exercise. Instead of assuming the same seated position for hours at a time, active sitters make an effort to change positions and take intentional pauses during the day to walk, stretch, and even complete a light "office workout" if possible. These small, simple actions can benefit you both physically and mentally by allowing you to unplug, refresh, and re-energize.

Need to convince your boss that active sitting is actually a good thing for the company? A recent study determined that regular walk breaks at the office help workers feel happierand less fatigued. Fortunately, the study also found that walk breaks did not appear to affect productivity or results on cognitive tests.

The essentials behind active sitting include:

  • Stretching"Un-desk" your body with a standing figure-four stretch, a hip flexor stretch, and simple wrist extensions.
  • Cardio: Take a short walk break at least once an hour. Take the stairs instead of the elevator and make the most of your lunch break with a brisk stroll outside if weather permits.
  • Strength: Complete a five-minute "desk-ercise" routine a couple of times a day with low-impact bodyweight movements like sit-ups, squats, and pushups.

How Can I Get Started?

Getting started with active sitting is easy! Begin by trying to incorporate one of the three techniques listed above (stretching, cardio, or strength) into your daily routine for a full week, and then add in another technique during the following week. If you stick with it, you'll likely be a pro at active sitting in less than a month! To meet your active-sitting goals, try some of the following motivators.

  • Accountability partner: An active-sitting partner at the office can bring many of the same benefits as having a workout buddy at the gym. Encourage each other to take breaks, walk over to each other's desks instead of sending emails or chat messages, and cheer each other on for staying healthy in other ways like packing healthy lunches.
  • Active-sitting alarm: Don't make your workday any more stressful with a complicated active-sitting schedule. Simply set a timer or alarm to go off once an hour as a reminder to take an active break.
  • Standing desk: A standing desk is a great investment that can pay off for years to come. Many standing desks easily lower to a seated position so you don't have to be on your feet all day. Make sure to pack comfortable shoes to wear at your desk!
  • Fitness tracker: Stay motivated to move with a wearable fitness tracker or app. You can literally count the steps toward your active-sitting goals and track other healthy habits like sleep, stress levels, and nutrition.