Sitting is the new smoking for Irish workers who are tied for hours daily to sedentary jobs, increasing their risks of obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
Workers should set themselves reminders to get up and go for short walks throughout the day - but many more employers must also start looking after the health and wellbeing of their staff, a Dublin conference was told.
It comes in the wake of research by the Nutrition and Health Foundation (NHF) showing four in 10 workers in Ireland say they are "totally or extremely" inactive during the day.
Prof Niall Moyna, Head of the School of Health and Human Performance in DCU, pointed out: "As soon as you sit down you are decreasing activity in your legs and your ability to burn fat.
"Your expenditure of calories goes now and your ability to remove glucose from your body is decreased.
"It is a bit sad that we have become so inactive that we are having to find ways to become active," he told the conference marking National Workplace Wellbeing Day.
"The workplace is somewhere we can be physically active. Set the alarm the get off the chair every 20 minutes and take some exercise. Put the printer in a location where people will have to walk to it several times a day. Take the stairs."
He suggested that instead of everyone sitting down for a meeting, they could stand up.
Gary Keegan, Director of the Irish Institute of Sport, said people are better off starting with little goals, otherwise they will die out like New Year's Resolutions.
"Say to yourself that when I am in the car, I will not take calls but use my journey to breathe and relax.
"When you get to work, don't eat lunch at the desk but at a table. Have a sandwich over 15 minutes and use the time to go for a walk."
He pointed out we all need to self-manage more to feel more in control and make better choices.
The Central Statistics Office (CSO) was named at the conference as Ireland's best large employer for promoting the wellbeing of their staff.
Dr Muireann Cullen of the NHF said their research also showed that seven in 10 employees are more likely to stay longer in a workplace where interest is shown in their health.
Tips to reduce sitting time include:
- Stand at the bus stop
- Take the stairs and walk up escalators
- Set a reminder to get up every 20 minutes
- Take some phonecalls standing up and walk around
- Take a walk break every time you take a coffee or tea break
- Instead of sending an email to a co-worker, get up and walk to their desk
- At home, swap time watching television or at the computer for some activity
- Walk to or from work a few days a week.