If you work in an office, chances are good you spend eight hours a day or more sitting at a desk. And all those hours without physical activity could be having a negative impact on your health.

The more you sit, the higher your risk of chronic diseases that's the conclusion drawn by Kansas State University researcher Richard Rosenkranz, assistant professor of human nutrition. Even if you exercise after work, you still may be at risk.

"More physically active people do better with regard to chronic disease compared with less physically active people, but we should also be looking at reducing sitting," Rosenkranz said. "A lot of office jobs that require long periods of sitting may be hazardous to your health because of inactivity and the low levels of energy expenditure."

Lisa Bartel with the Harvey County Health Department echoes this opinion.

"The research is showing that even if you are receiving your 30 minutes of exercise a day, having a sedentary job can affect your health in a negative way," she said. "Our bodies were made to move. Individuals with sedentary jobs really have to think about and plan how they are going to incorporate movement into their day."

Research results

Collaborating with University of Western Sydney researchers, Rosenkranz examined the associations of sitting time and chronic diseases in middle-aged Australian males in a study that has been published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.

The study's sample included 63,048 males ages 45-65 from the Australian state of New South Wales. Compared with those who reported sitting four hours or less per day, those who sat for more than four hours per day were significantly more likely to report having a chronic disease such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. The reporting of chronic diseases rose as participants indicated they sat more. Those sitting for at least six hours were significantly more likely to report having diabetes.

"We saw a steady stair-step increase in risk of chronic diseases the more participants sat," Rosenkranz said. "The group sitting more than eight hours clearly had the highest risk."

Taking action

So, how can you find easy ways to exercise at work?

Bartel encourages people to get out of their chair every hour, if possible.

"Make a lap around the office, go talk to the co-worker instead of sending an email, use the bathroom or water fountain that is the furthest distance from your office or climb a flight or two of stairs," she said. "Another tactic is to park far away from the employee entrance."

She recommends printing off the following poster for some quick exercises you can do beside your desk: the "WorkSmart Stretching Plan," available at www.walkkansas.org/doc13150.ashx.

You can also sign up for the Walk Kansas program through the Harvey County Extension office. The program encourages people to put together a six-member team of friends, co-workers, neighbors or family members and track the team's physical activity and food choices during an eight-week period.

Each team can pick what goal they'd like to reach: 150 minutes of physical activity per week per team member (the equivalent of traveling across the state); five hours per week per participant (going across Kansas and back); or six hours per week (around the perimeter of the state).

Although Extension agent Susan Jackson said the official deadline to register has passed, late registration still is available. Cost to participate in Walk Kansas is $6 per person (T-shirts and sweatshirts cost extra). Participants must sign up by March 7.

There will be a kick-off for Harvey County Walk Kansas from 3 to 6 p.m. March 14 in the west community room at the courthouse. Participants will start tracking their Walk Kansas progress on March 17.

You can pick up registration forms at the Harvey County Extension office, or you can print out forms online at www.harvey.ksu.edu and then take them to the extension office. The signature of each team member is needed.

For more information, contact 284-6930.