Productive healthy office work – The Movement Movement 

It’s a fact. Sitting too long shortens lives.

Building movement into your day is an effective way to make you healthier and more productive at work.

But how? This free guide gives you some easy to follow tips and guidelines

Some key messages on how to build movement into your working day are outlined in this article. First, we will look at the barriers and next the potential solutions

The barriers

Behaviour change

Habits can be hard to shift. If you are used to concentrating on your work from a sitting position it can be hard to transition to being productive in other positions that include standing and/or moving.

Changing habits can take time. But with persistence can be achieved and can yield great results. Once you set your mind to it, your brain appreciates these sorts of challenges from time to time.

Being shy in front of colleagues

Do you feel embarrassed to jump up and exercise in front of colleagues? If so, you are not alone. In my experience this is one of the main barriers for people who recognise the advantages in standing and moving during their day but just can’t bring themselves to do it and risk looking “silly”?

Many of the colleagues you are shy about will be wanting to do the same thing! It often just takes one or two people to change a workplace culture.


Some people worry that they look like they are not being productive? This comes back to old beliefs that sitting still in front of the computer is being hard at work and standing / moving is taking a break. This perception is changing slowly. Best to be on the front end of this change rather than wait for everyone else to change first. You might be waiting a long time?

Design of the workplace discourages movement

Some workplaces are designed in a way that does not promote movement at work. These can include:

• Needing a footrest at your desk. Often it takes so long to fiddle around and get the position right that you are loathe to stand up and alter the position.
• Crowded office spaces with not much room to move
• Low light levels with poor levels of natural light
• Poor ventilation making you less energetic
• Quiet subdued environment where everyone tends to keep their head down fixed on the screen

Poor body awareness

Many people are just not in touch with their body enough. The old instincts to stand up, move and stretch have slowly been replaced by normalising the feeling of being still.

It takes years to learn how to sit still without moving (it starts in the early years of school). It usually takes much less time to unlearn this and make regular movement the new norm.

The exercise myth

Some people believe that sitting for long periods is fine as long as they exercise before or after work. While it is good to exercises regularly outside of work it’s important to understand that sitting for long periods at work is an independent risk factor for health issues such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and more.


This is especially an issue for working parents who are sleep deprived.

The solutions

These vary from person to person and workplace to workplace. The key is to not sit for more than 30 mins at a time. Even just a 2 min break every 30 mins will help you.

The tips below are a great place to start.

Standing meetings

Encourage standing meetings at work. You may get resistance about this, but persist and a tipping point will soon be reached. Alternatively, take the chairs out of the meeting spaces. Harsh? Trust me, many of your colleagues will be having the same thoughts. They just need someone to take the initiative.

Be brave enough to exercise in the office

Be brave and exercise in the office occasionally. How would you feel if someone else stood up to do stretches? Would you judge them negatively? Or respect them for making exercise a priority and be keen to join them? If the latter, then how about being that brave person? What have you got to lose?… Oh, that’s right…. Your health!

Form an exercise gang

Get a group of 3-4 of you that can support each other to get up and immerse in the embarrassment together. Give yourselves a really daggy name like the “Movers and Grover’s”. Have a bit of fun with it.

Get a movement buddy

Team up with a friend at work who can be a “get up and move” buddy with you. Accountability and peer pressure can work in your favour.

Use reminders

Use technology to help you to get up and move – on your phone, fit bit, calendar… whatever works!?

Design of the workplace encourages movement

Some workplaces are designed in a way that encourages you to get up and move. Things that facilitate that include:

  • Having your feet on the ground so that it’s easy to move from sitting to standing
  • Having sit to stand desks that are easy to operate
  • Having plenty of room around you
  • Having plenty of natural light
  • Having spaces you can move into to stretch out and exercise

Set goals towards Health and Productivity

To break out of unhealthy habits requires some accountability. So start now by setting yourself a SMART goal (Specific/ Measurable / Achievable / Realistic / Tangible).


“For the next two weeks I will not sit for longer than 30 mins at a time while working in the office.
“For the month of November, I will ensure that I average at least 10,000 steps per day”
“For the next three weeks, I will have my desk raised to standing height for one third of the time I am at work”

Share the goal with people who can help keep you on track. A support network can really help.
Lots more ideas and perspectives can be found in the guide. Changing habits can be hard and takes time and effort. But it’s so worth it!

Don’t stand for too long either

Note that prolonged standing is also an issue for different reasons (muscle fatigue, calf circulation issues, pressure on joints including the lower back, etc.)

My advice is don’t replace excessive sitting with excessive standing. A nice blend of the two changed regularly is the best balance.

For more information on office ergonomics check out our resources tab which has a wealth of resources including:

  • Exercise sheets
  • The sitting epidemic – a free resource from our friends at MOVI
  • Recommended equipment from suppliers we trust
  • Much more including important codes of practice on manual handling and safety at work
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