Sitting is the new smoking – Five simple tips to avoid sitting for too long

On weekdays, adults are awake for between 16 and 17 hours. Of these, 10 to 11 are spent sitting. This figure is in itself quite impressive. The fact that sitting for a long time can lead to serious health risks with consequences such as tension in the neck, back pain and chronic conditions is a cause for concern. 

We have put together some important facts on the subject as well as simple tips for your daily routine that can help you to avoid long-term injuries as a result of sitting for too long.

Why is sitting for long periods unhealthy?

What makes such an unspectacular pastime like sitting a potential risk to our health and efficiency? The lack of movement slows down the blood circulation, delivering less oxygen to the brain. The result: one feels tired, experiences lower levels of awareness, reduced concentration and brainpower.

Slower blood circulation increases the risk of blood clotting, with a rise in the risk of high blood pressure, heart and vascular disorders. A further consequence of sitting for long periods is loss of muscle tone. In the back, this is experienced as pain and there is an accompanying loss of mobility and stability in the spine. As if that were not enough: destabilisation of the muscles in the back causes the stomach muscles to become flabby, which in turn can lead to metabolic disorders and weight gain.

Can this be compensated with sport?

If the periods spent seated are not regularly interrupted, sitting turns into a health risk.  In this case – contrary to widespread public opinion – being active after work can no longer compensate for a day spent sitting. The consequences can be head, neck and back pain. But the risk of long-term consequences such as chronic conditions and weight gain increase by 12% for men and 26% for women per hour spent sitting.1

What can you do about this?

For most of us, sitting comes with the job. But that is no reason to lose hope: apart from external factors such as how the office is furnished, you can protect your health using simple but effective tricks. The most important of these is to have a break from sitting as often as possible.

1/ Stand up to take care of small jobs

Even if you are not a happy owner of a sit-stand desk that should not stop you from standing to do certain jobs. Why not make telephone calls standing up? Why not put the coffee room bistro table or office furniture to use as a sit-stand desk for small jobs? The height is not quite right? With a little creativity you will swiftly find the right base.

2/ Pay your colleagues a visit

A colleague in the office next door or on the floor above has not answered your email? This is an opportunity to stand up and pay your colleague a personal visit. This also has the advantage of promoting communication within the team.

3/ Take the stairs rather than the lift

Whether looking for a colleague, going to a meeting or leaving for your lunch break: make a point of taking the stairs rather than the lift.

4/ Ban the printer & co to another room

It can make real sense to locate objects that you use frequently in another room. On the one hand, there is less noise to distract you in the room in which you are working, and in the case of the printer you avoid irritating the airways with toner particles and are also obliged to stand up on a regular basis. This applies not only to the printer: office supplies, files, kettles etc. can all be located in a nearby room.

5/ Put a little swing into your meetings

Who said you need to sit for meetings? New formats like standing or walking meetings not only introduce a bit of movement into a day that is predominantly spent sitting but also into the meetings themselves. Standing meetings tend to be more efficient and therefore finish earlier.

For your health’s sake: sit correctly!

Check how much you know about sitting and working correctly. This is easy when you use the FCOS learning modules on «Ergonomics in the workplace».

If you have to sit then do it right

As well as avoiding sitting for too long periods of time, the correct adjustment of the office furniture should not be forgotten. A good office chair can be adjusted to suit the needs of its user. The monitor, position of the keyboard and mouse can also be easily adjusted. We often tend to use the workstation just the way we found it, although it would take only five minutes to adapt the workstation to our individual needs.

1 Bericht «Sitzender Lebensstil beeinflusst die Gesundheit negativ» des Bundesamts für Sport BASPO, 2014

Are you already using the FCOS online tools?


In the seven chapters of the FCOS Box and a series of short video clips, you will find out how to improve health and safety at the office and what needs to be taken into consideration.

to the FCOS Box

FCOS Checkbox

With the FCOS Checkbox apps you can identify safety risks in the office or check to see if your workstation is set up ergonomically.

to the FCOS Checkbox

FCOS Learning Modules

Easily accessible and entertaining, they will help you check and consolidate your knowledge of the basics in safety and health protection at work.

to the FCOS Learning Modules