Another Reason to Exit Early?

My entire job, which I spend around 40 hours per week doing is sitting on my butt and staring at a computer screen. A somewhat alarmist article  pointed out the considerable health risks of doing just that, which included an increased risk of heart disease, decreasing around 7 years of quality of life, as well as escalating my chances of getting cancer. So far, I’ve been doing this kind of work for around a decade, and can’t see any significant change coming in the next few years.

Out of interest, I borrowed a pedometer from the public library (what don’t they have!) for a while to get an idea of how much activity I was involved in over a normal 8-hour day. At the end of the week, I found I was averaging around 4-5 thousand steps per day. After some more testing, I found that this level of activity amounted to about a forty-five minute walk, which seems low for an 8-hour period.

I’m not sure what a normal amount of activity is supposed to be, but what I do know is that humans as a whole (especially developed nations) haven’t really been as lazy as we are now ever in our entire history. The majority of people (myself included), move from an ergonomically designed work seat to a couch at home and don’t really do much in between. Even if all you did was lift heavy things and walk around when you were done work, it’s difficult to overcome the negative impact sitting has on the body when that’s all you do for a good chunk of your day.

I’m not sure I entirely believe that I’m killing myself at work – I just don’t think sitting around constantly for longer than I have to is overly healthy in the long-term. The sitting around is definitely not going to help me as my metabolism slows over the next decade or so and fighting off weight gain becomes considerably harder than it is now. Looking at how I spend the majority of my free time now, I’m definitely more active than I am while at work – where my time is somewhat controlled and I don’t have the freedom to wander around.

Do you worry about the effect your desk job has on your health? Do you think you’ll be healthier after retirement?

6 thoughts on “Another Reason to Exit Early?”

  1. Yes, I do think about this. I also work at a computer for my day job. I’d like to be a writer/editor as a part time and/or retirement job, which of course also involves sitting at a computer. But apart from sitting, I don’t like being trapped in a building with recirculated air, fluorescent lights and all the other office trappings. At least writing at home I can have my window open.
    My husband has similar concerns about sitting, though he is more active than me. But he is also working shift work, which can reduce your life.
    The third element is our jobs force us to be here in Winnipeg, which makes it extremely hard and unpleasant to exercise for a good portion of the winter. We’ve never been gym people, so it’s doubtful we’ll start soon.
    But we hope to retire at least down to halftime work at age 45. Then we can spend winters somewhere that it’s possible to exercise outside and won’t be trapped by our chairs and computers.
    I’m extremely glad we’ll have this option as I do worry that if we worked until the normal retirement age, we wouldn’t live much longer.

  2. I think about this a lot. I sit in front of a computer for 9 hours for my day job, and am constantly stressed in so many different ways from it. I hardly ever get up from my seat also.

  3. I took a pedometer to work one day… 20000 steps in an 8 hour shift. Saves me having to pay for a gym membership at least….

  4. I’m a web developer and spend countless hours at my desk. It’s shameful almost. In the early 2000s, I would spend between 5 and 15 hours every single day at my computer. Yes, that included most weekends.

    In 2011, I upgraded my home office to a standing desk, using about $30 worth of lumber. I just bought a 2×12 and made 2 blocks to raise the desk off the ground by a foot.

    It’s been great. The first week and a half was utter hell, but now that I’m use to it, I can’t imagine going back to a sitting desk setup. I also don’t feel as guilty at the end of the day, when I spend 2-3 hours sitting down (at the dinner table, couch, floor, whatever)

    Definitely something to consider if you have the option.

  5. Unless you do 10,000 steps a day you are not even considered active.
    Fortunately there are 168 hours in a week. If you are working 40 of them there is still lots of time and opportunity to get moving. 8)

  6. I’m more concerned about safety driving my car! Talk about shortening your life. Anyhow 40 hrs a week isn’t hard work at a desk job. Be realistic find some balance with your sedentary job. What are you doing the other 4-6 hrs you’re not at work?

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