Defeat the Devil that Keeps You Chained to Your Desk

Filed in The Healthy Writer by on February 17, 2015 • views: 3307

Devil at Your Desk 2Last year, I reported on studies indicating that the more hours we sit every day, the shorter our lives will be.

One study, for example, showed that women who reported sitting more than six hours per day were 37 percent more likely to die during the study period than those who sat fewer than three hours a day—men who did the same were 18 percent more likely to die.

Yep, I think most of us have gotten the message.

Sit too much = bad. Very bad.

It’s like there is a devil at your desk, luring you to stay and stay and stay and never get up again…until you look like this.

Comical man in helmet and skeleton mask with computerWe all know that an active life is a healthy life. At the same time, a great majority of us (especially writers, creative artists, and office personnel) are required to put in a lot of hours in front of the computer, which means a lot of sitting. (Unless you have a walking treadmill desk, and the verdict is still out on how well those work.)

There’s just not much we can do about that if we want to keep paying the bills.

So we have to find ways to manage all that time in the chair so it doesn’t send us to an early grave.

My Objective Experiment

I’ve tried to get up more often. I thought I was doing pretty well. This year, I decided to take it a step further and invest in a tool that would give me real, objective feedback about how active I am.

I got it. I used it. I checked the results.

I was shocked.

I thought I was an active person. The results told me otherwise. They were sobering, to say the least.

So sobering, in fact, they compelled me to reach out to all other writers and desk jockeys out there.

Your job (or your work) could be killing you.


It’s time to take your health back into your own hands.

How Much Are You Actually Moving?

If you’re still reading, you probably know by now which tool I used to discover my sobering results:

…a pedometer.

That first day, I really turned it on. I got up out of the chair at least once every thirty minutes. I walked around my office area. I got tea and coffee and water. I turned on the music and danced. Between completing articles, I grabbed the jump rope and did about 50 jumps. All in all, it was one of my more “active” work days.

When it was all over, I checked my total amount of steps.

My mouth dropped open.

The “experts” recommend 10,000 steps a day.

My total? A dismal 2,000.

The American College of Sports Medicine labels me as “sedentary.”


The Benefits of a Pedometer

Granted, I didn’t include my regular exercise routine. (Three miles on the treadmill.) I’m sure that would have helped my totals.

Still, it wouldn’t have gotten me to that 10,000 mark I’m sure.

It was disappointing, but it was a great wake-up call for me. As I mentioned in a previous post, we all tend to overestimate how well we’re doing—I’m willing to bet we’re even more likely to  do this when it comes to exercise and activity.

A Pedometer Can Inspire You

“We are beginning to recognize that sitting without any movement may even be worse than not getting enough physical activity,” says Jeanne Johnston, associate professor in the department of kinesiology at Indiana University-Bloomington’s School of Public Health. She adds that many people don’t realize how much time they spend sitting each day.

“The first time these people wear pedometers, they are surprised by how little they move. Then they enable the person to set goals.”

The pedometer makes it easy. How many steps did you walk today? When you see the truth, it’s easy to start making changes, and just as easy (and encouraging) to see how those changes affect your daily totals.

Indiana University reported in 2013 that a simple program using pedometers to monitor how much participants moved during the day increased physical activity, decreased sitting time, and even helped participants lose some weight. (They used an Omron pedometer, in case you’re planning to go shopping.)

An earlier 2007 study found that people who used pedometers significantly increased activity (by nearly 27 percent) while decreasing body mass index (BMI) and blood pressure.

How Do You Cope?

Do you have to sit to do your work? Do you have to commute for more than ten minutes? Are you finding it difficult to add more movement into your day?

If so, like me, your health is at risk.

If you’re using a pedometer, let me know what you think. Has it helped you increase your daily activity? Are you getting in more steps per day?

A Quick Guide to Your Activity Level by Number of Steps

  • 0–4,999                    Sedentary
  • 5,001–7,499          Low Active
  • 7,500–9999           Somewhat Active
  • 10,000–12,499    Active
  • 12,500 or more    Highly Active

Do you use a pedometer to measure your daily activity? Please share your thoughts.

*Must be 18 or older to enter. Pedometer valued at $20.

Eliza Barclay, “Will a Pedometer Get You Off Your Duff?” NPR, June 5, 2013,

Dena M. Bravata, et al., “Using Pedometers to Increase Physical Activity and Improve Health: A Systematic Review,” JAMA, 2007; 298(19):2296-2304,

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Comments (6)

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  1. I work in tech and quite a few of the companies are starting to include standing desks as an option for employees, as well as bringing in ergonomic advisors. I hope this practice continues ’cause who wants their life shortened by sitting at a desk all day?

    • Colleen says:

      Oh that’s good news. So hard to find ways to get up out of that chair—nice to know some companies are trying to help. Thanks for stopping by, Keisha! :O)

  2. Kate says:

    Oh, I’m sure we overestimate how much exercise and activity we are really getting. Your message is quite right Colleen – we need to get out and get moving! Good luck with your step counts.

  3. Chere Hagopian says:

    My iPhone has a built-in pedometer app, which I look at on days when I feel like I have walked quite a bit. (I subsequently get depressed because 3000 steps has been about my top so far.) 10,000 steps is a lot more than it seems like! As with the scale, I only look at it when I think I might get good news. I definitely need to be more purposeful and face the reality, however depressing it might be! Only knowing the truth helps you improve. I have just started ruthlessly counting calories, and that is depressing but encouraging too. Depressing because a generic effort to “do better” didn’t actually do anything. Encouraging because knowledge is power, and knowing the truth enables me to change it. At least, I hope so…

    • Colleen says:

      10,000 steps is a lot! At least in our modern-day deskbound lifestyles. There’s no doubt that it’s challenging to try to force activity into a workday that is so sedentary. All we can do is keep trying! Thanks, Chere.