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Stop Sitting Your Way to Poor Health: Preserve Your Posture & Cardio Health

In our modern, technology-driven world, it is easy to find yourself spending the majority of our day seated at a desk or on a chair or sofa.

This is a problem because the human body is not designed to sit for prolonged periods of time and there can be hidden health consequences.

Whether you're sitting watching your favourite TV shows, spending a lot of time in the car, or at your desk attending virtual meetings, the sedentary nature of today's common routines and lifestyle can take a toll on your body's function and performance if you don't pay attention to it.

Here we highlight the main risks associated with sitting for prolonged periods of time and offer you some valuable tips to minimise the impact of excess sitting to your health and wellbeing.

The Health Risks of Prolonged Sitting

Sitting for extended periods might seem harmless, but research has shown that it can have serious health consequences over time.

Some of the risks associated with excessive sitting include:

  1. Poor Posture: Sitting for hours on end often leads to bad posture, which can result in back and neck pain, as well as long-term spinal issues.

  2. Weight Gain: A sedentary lifestyle can contribute to weight gain and obesity. Even though you may feel like you're "working" when you're at your desk churning through a project or webinar, the reality is when you sit for long periods, you burn fewer calories and impact your mobility, compared to when you're up and moving around;

  3. Cardiovascular Problems: Since sitting for long bouts of time minimises blood flow within the body, it has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol;

  4. Muscle Weakness: Sitting too much restricts your movement, which of course can lead to muscle weakness, particularly in the legs and core, which may affect your strength and balance.

  5. Mental Health Concerns: Though work or communicating from a desk can be stimulating to a point, the link between physical movement and mental health is well known.  For this reason, prolonged sitting can impact your mental wellbeing, increasing the risk of depression and anxiety.

Tips for Preserving Your Posture, Mobility And Health

Thankfully with a little consciousness, there are simple steps you can take to reduce the negative effects of prolonged sitting to maintain your overall health and wellbeing.  Here are our favourite suggested tips:

  1. Take Regular Breaks: Make it a habit to stand up, stretch, and walk around for a few minutes every hour. This simple practice can improve circulation and reduce the strain on your muscles as well as keep you mentally refreshed;

  2. Create An Ergonomic Workspace: This means ensure your desk and chair are ergonomically designed to support good posture. Adjust your monitor, chair height and keyboard to fit your body comfortably.

  3. Consider a Standing Desk: If possible, invest in a standing desk or a desk converter that allows you to alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day.

  4. Keep Up Your Exercise Routine: Establish a regular exercise routine before or after desk work, or around your TV or online entertainment schedule, even if it's for just 20-30 minutes per day.  Brisk walking outdoors in the morning should be a priority.  Also consider incorporating quality aerobic exercises such as cycling, circuit training, swimming and a little strength training into your weekly routine to help counteract the effects of prolonged sitting;

  5. Schedule Walking Meetings: Instead of holding meetings in a conference room, suggest "walking meetings" where you and your friends can discuss matters while taking a stroll.  Whilst this may not work for Zoom calls or in all situations, it's a healthy tip to keep in mind and to consider whenever possible;

  6. Stay Hydrated, Eat Healthy Snacks: Stay hydrated at your desk by ensuring you have a full glass or ceramic water bottle available at all times.  Sip water throughout the day during your work and meetings to ensure you stay hydrated.  Also, keep healthy snacks at your desk such as dried fruit, raw nuts, cornucopia or pulse at your desk to help you avoid munching on junk food which is not good for your body or brain;

  7. Practice Mindfulness and Stress Reduction: Practice mindfulness and stress reduction techniques to maintain your mental health. Some of the simplest and best are basic deep breathing exercises where you breath in for 4-5 counts, hold for 4-5 counts, then out for 4-5 counts. Do this several times as it can really help to oxygenate your body and mind, improve your focus and ease stress.  Also, short meditation sessions at your desk can work wonders in between meetings to clear your mind and set positive intentions.  All of this also helps to balance the stress on your body caused while sitting;

  8. Wear Comfortable Footwear: Whilst what you wear on your feet may seem insignificant, the reality is that comfortable, supportive shoes (or even bare feet) are far better than shoes that are tight or uncomfortable.  When sitting for long periods of time, it's important to have good circulation to your feet in order to support good posture and reduce strain on your lower back and legs; 

  9. Set A Stand-Up Timer: One of the best ways to remind yourself to get up and walk around regularly when working at your desk is to use or your smart phone, watch or app to ring a bell every hour on the hour.  This is a great way to remind you to take breaks, move, stretch and stay active during your work or entertainment session.

The Main Take Away

While sitting for entertainment, desk work, driving and travelling is very common these days, to avoid postural problems, back pain, weak muscles and joints, it is wise to be conscious of not sitting for extended periods of time without a break.

By incorporating some of the tips shared with you here into your entertainment or desk work routine, you'll go a long way to minimising the risks to your body and health, and you'll make your work an even more enjoyable and productive experience.

Remember, it all starts with awareness and then making small adjustments to any kind of task that could potentially impact your health.  This is what self care is all about.

Tolman Self Care. 


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