Turns out sitting at your desk is worse than smoking

Hannah Sims · 09 Aug

Thought this was click-bait, didn’t you? “Surely not from Perkbox” you reasoned, and clicked with conviction. Well, well done you, clever clogs. You were right, again. Not click bait, but a really quite scary truth.

A recent study, published in The Lancet medical journal, has confirmed the 2014 warning from Dr. James Levine, inventor of the treadmill desk, that:

“Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death.”


But before all you office dwellers start having kittens (or reaching for the cigarettes), let us break it down for you. It’s not actually as frightening as it might seem and it’s surprisingly easy to combat.

So, the rather scary report claims that inactivity causes as many deaths as smoking. It argues that eight hours straight seated in the office is as bad as a regular nicotine habit.

But, question: can you shuffle slightly faster than a zombie? The average undead moves at a 2mph, but turns out that if you walk at a snail-outstripping 3mph for just 60 minutes a day you can completely negate these devastating effects. Professor Ekelund, who lead the study, says:

“You don’t need to do sport, you don’t need to go to the gym, it’s OK doing some brisk walking”.

We’re sold: no more mindless staggering for us.

And the cherry on top? It doesn’t even have to be a solid block of activity. If you’re puffed out after a brisk 15 minute walk, fear not. Regular breaks from your desk are, apparently, just as effective. You really shouldn’t feel guilty about taking five minutes out each hour.

Most of you have eight hours in your working day. That’s eight five minute breaks, if we’re not mistaken. We’ve racked our practical Perkbox brains to help you turn that five minutes into a juicy health-boosting timeout. Here we go…

10am: Tour de Office

When was the last time you went to see the upstairs printer? The back of the building where the bins are? Feed back to curious colleagues: “hey remember old HP1050? He still jammin.”

Ducks swim at 1.6mph so we should be walking a lot faster than this!

11am: Walking Meeting

Catching up with the latest business trend is a walk in the park. According to Steve Jobs, who was famous for his long, thoughtful strolls, walking meetings are incredibly productive for your business. Walk at a brisk 3mph (ducks swim at 1.6mph, so twice as fast as a lazy mallard), get exercise and get down to business!

12pm: Lunchtime Fauna Ramble

Spend a portion of your break walking or cycling. Only 3% of your colleagues spend their lunch break at the gym, according to The Telegraph. So round up the 97% left over and go on a ‘nature’ ramble. Over 25 and addicted to Pokémon? It’s OK! Spend half an hour walking 1.5 miles through some Pokéstops. Not addicted to Pokémon? Who are you – the fun police?

2pm: Spontaneous desk swap!

This works better/only really works if the desk in question is a five-minute walk away. If causing chaos doesn’t align well with company office policy then collect dirty mugs – taking one back to the kitchen each time. Read some tea leaves as you go and foresee that long, healthy life.

3pm: Coffee roulette

Some employers pair random people for coffee to encourage office bonding. Have a spin with lunch roulette, a US app that randomly picks two people to lunch together, and invite someone you don’t know very well for a walk to get coffee. Subtly increase the pace as you walk. As they cotton on, intimate that whoever loses the walking race buys the coffee. Increase the handicap with hopping and/or challenging flip flops and high heels. Particularly suitable for competitive employees.

4pm: Race the lift!

This is skyscraper-dependent, so a little bit elitist, but we’ll suggest it anyway. If you work at the top of a high rise and your lift has beaten the Taipei 101 office tower’s 16.8m/s vertical ascension, well: Bring. It. On. Be careful on the stairs though- this one’s done better racing up the building. Downwards racing can be treacherous and risks crunching ankle bones into Eton mess. We don’t condone that. Employee wellbeing etc.


5pm: Speed dial

Do you really need to take that phone call at your desk? Or can you walk and talk? Just make sure you don’t over do it to the extent that your authoritative “I’ve been looking at your reports” can’t be heard through your heavy breathing and attempts to keep your heart beating.

6pm: Home time!

But why go straight back? Your cat doesn’t really love you. Take the scenic route.

Now don’t say we don’t treat you.

If you’d like to find out more about how Perkbox can help you boost the physical, emotional and financial wellbeing of your team, please pop onto here

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