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Here's How Much You Need to Exercise to Make Up for a Day of Desk Sitting

Warren Little / Getty

Sitting all day at work takes its toll on your body and your health—a sedentary lifestyle has been associated with higher mortality and disease rates—but a study from sports medicine researchers has positive news for the millions of Americans who find themselves behind a desk from 9 to 5 every day. A certain amount of daily exercise can counter the deadly effects, and it's really not too terribly difficult to achieve.

Researchers of a sedentary lifestyle study have good news for office workers who find themselves trapped behind a desk every day from 9 to 5. The negative health effects created by long hours of sitting down can be reduced by daily exercise. 

The study looked at data from 16 previous studies, mainly involving people ages 45 and above from the United States, Australia, and Western Europe. They found during their follow-up period of two to 18 years that those who sat for eight hours a day with little exercise had a 9.9 percent chance of mortality, while those who sat for less than four hours per day with one hour of exercise had a 6.8 percent chance of mortality.

The study goes on to recommend that those who sit daily for an average of eight hours should try to exercise one hour per day, while those who sit 6 or less should aim for half an hour of exercise. 

“You don’t need to do sport, you don’t need to go to the gym. It’s OK doing some brisk walking, maybe in the morning, during lunchtime, after dinner in the evening," said lead author Professor Ulf Ekelund in an interview with The Guardian, "You can split it up over the day, but you need to do at least one hour.”

The bottom line: Right now, most health experts recommend 30 minutes of exercise every day. Adding another 30 minutes may seem daunting, but you can squeeze it in without interrupting your schedule. We know it's not always easy to get up and move during the work day, especially when deadlines loom, but being mindful of movement can really help. When getting up to use the bathroom or get a drink, be sure to take the longest office route possible. When feasible, a quick walk around during lunch time can also help stretch muscles and give your mind a break.

When not at the office, try to insert exercise into your daily life. Start mornings with a walk around the neighborhood and maybe try a visit to the park before dinner, too. Choosing to consistently add activity throughout the day will get you up to one hour of exercise before you know it.