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Burn Fat at Your Desk

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The health consequences of prolonged sitting are well documented – and with sedentary jobs on the increase, it is common to be sat at a desk for 8 or more hours a day.

In order to promote health and well-being, physical activity at work is on the increase, with employers being proactive and flexible by purchasing new and innovative office equipment to increase activity levels.

But what else can you do at your at your workstation if you haven’t got the necessary equipment? In this article we’ll take a look.

This is what we’ll cover:

  • The dangers of sitting for log periods
  • Top tips for keeping active at your desk

Sitting all day is bad for your health

With today’s modern lifestyle we spend far too much time at our desks. If research is anything to go by you’re probably spending 7-8 hours a day sitting down [1]. Around 70% of us sit down for 6 hours a day and many for over 10 hours – and most of it is at work.

Sitting at your workstation all day can have massive health implications – with periods of long inactivity you are more likely to put weight on; your risk of diabetes and heart disease increases; and you’re more likely to suffer with lower back pain, high cholesterol and overall poor health.

To illustrate this, research in the American Journal of Epidemiology [2] studied over 100,000 people, both men and women. They reported worrying figures – women that were inactive were 94% more likely to die during the study period in comparison to those that were more active, and sat for less than 3 hours per day.

Likewise, in a large study of 222,497 people published in Archives of Internal Medicine [3], the association between sitting and ‘all-cause mortality’ – early death, was high – particularly for those sitting 10 hours a day.

Furthermore, a large meta-analysis of over 500,000 people [4] found the all-mortality figure was as high as 34%, and that after 7 hours, each additional hour of daily sitting was associated with an overall 2% increased risk of early death. 

The link between prolonged sitting and adverse effect is so bad that it’s even been given its own label – ‘sitting disease’.


Key Point: Sitting disease can contribute to a range of health issues and even early death.

An hour of physical activity per day can improve your health

A recent research paper from the World Health Organisation [5]  has identified that one hour of moderate-intensity physical activity a day offsets the health risks from sitting 8 hours a day or more.

The study involved the analysis of of trials that totalled over 1 million individuals. The authors of the research found that moderate intensity activities such as walking or cycling were effective at reducing the health risks associated with sitting disease. Those who sat for 8 hours a day had a 9.9% increased chance of dying within 2-18 years, whereas those that engaged in activity had only a 6.8% chance.

One interesting finding from the study was that, whilst an hour of activity is extremely effective at reducing mortality risk, even small chunks of activity added up can be beneficial for fat loss. This is where workstation activity comes in – regular, but small periods of movement add up and help you to maintain good health.


Key Point: Research suggests that even small amounts of activity done regularly can boost your health.

How can you lose weight while sitting down?

There are ways that you can offset such long periods of inactivity, and for the most they’ll go unnoticed at work. Here are our tips on how to keep active at your desk…

1. Wear casual clothes

Obviously we’re presuming you’re office culture allows you to do this, if not then it might be one to give a miss.

A study commissioned by the American Council on Exercise [6] found that when office workers wore casual attire in the workplace such as jeans as opposed to traditional office wear, they were more active at work.

Researchers found that when dressed more casually, physical activity levels increased by 8% – an extra 491 steps. Whilst this might seem like a lot, but over the course of a year this equates to 125 extra calories burned per week or over 6000 per year.

2. Use the Pomodoro technique

This is a time management method where work is divided into ‘intervals’, usually 25 minutes in length, and separated by short lengths of physical activity such as a quick stretch or walk.

There can be a lot more to the system, and it can get quite complicated, but overall it helps you to keep focused, with no distractions whilst at your desk, but then rewards you with regular, but short breaks where you can stand up, walk around, do some stretches or complete a quick mobility routine without feeling like you aren’t keeping on track with your work.

3. Plan your diet

Without proper planning, you’re possibly going to be left at work with limited options on healthy foods. By organizing in advance you can make better, more informed decisions on your daily calorie intake, whilst at the same time keeping control. ‘Meal prep’ is a key weapon that you have to manage your nutrients and stop you from reaching for a poor alternative from the nearest fast food place.

4. Marching on the spot

This one might sound a bit strange, but marching on the spot whilst working at your desk helps to improve blood flow increase your heart rate up too. It might not burn a huge amount of calories as a one-off, but when done regularly it adds up considerably. It will also help to strengthen your legs and keep your abdominal muscles tight as well.

5. Drink more water

Evidence suggests that drinking more water – an essential nutrient needed for a range of important bodily functions, you can increase your weight loss and fat burning. Research in Obesity [7] showed that by drinking 500ml of water before a meal, weight loss increased by 2kg (44%) in comparison to a control group.

It has been proposed that absolute increases in drinking water may promote weight loss by altering metabolism and turning on the fat burning switch, and relative increases may promote weight loss by lowering total energy intake and keeping you full.

Summary – burning fat at your desk

The health consequences of prolonged sitting are well documented – and with sedentary jobs on the increase, it is common to be sat at a desk for 8 or more hours a day.

Sitting at your desk all day can not only contribute to weight gain, but have massive health implications as well. – With periods of long inactivity you are more likely to put weight on; your risk of diabetes and heart disease increases; and you’re more likely to suffer with lower back pain, high cholesterol and overall poor health.

Employers are aiming to be pro-active – with standing desks and office exercise sessions on the increase. But if you haven’t got access to this then there are still a number of things that you can do at your desk to improve fat burning and weight loss. Whilst they may not be massive calorie burners on their own, if done regularly they soon add up.


  1. Matthews, CE. Amount of time spent in sedentary behaviors in the unites states, 2003-2004. Am J Epidemiol. 2008; 167(7): 875-881
  2. Patel, AV et al. Leisure time spent sitting in relation to total mortality in a prospective cohort of US adults. Am. J. Epidemiol. 2010; 172(4):419-429.
  3. van der Ploeg, HP et al. Sitting time and all-cause mortality risk in 222 497 Australian adults. Arch Intern Med. 2012; 172(6): 494-500
  4. Chau, JY et al. Daily sitting time and all-cause mortality: a meta-analysis. 2013; 8(11)
  5. Lancet. Physical activity 2016: progress and challenges.
  6. American Council on Exercise (ACE). Casual and comfortable clothing workdays promote increased physical activity. 2004.
  7. Dennis, EA et al. Water Consumption Increases Weight Loss During a Hypocaloric Diet Intervention in Middle-aged and Older adults. Obesity. 2010; 18(2): 300-307