Work at a Desk Job? This Trick Could Boost Your Energy

People walking around an office.
(Image credit: Pressmaster | Shutterstock)

Here's another reason not to sit all day: Getting up from your desk for a few minutes at a time throughout the day may boost your mood and energy levels, a small new study suggests.

The study involved 30 healthy adults who were typically not very active during the day. For the study, they visited a health center three times, with each visit one week apart. At one visit, the participants sat for a full 6 hours, and were only allowed to get up for bathroom breaks. At another visit, the participants exercised for 30 minutes on a treadmill in the morning, before sitting for the rest of the 6-hour period. And at another visit, the participants sat for most of the day but got up every hour for a short bout of activity (5 minutes of walking on a treadmill), for a total of 30 minutes of exercise over the course of the day.

They were also asked about their energy levels, mood and food cravings at several points during the day.

The participants said they had more energy both on the day they exercised for 30 minutes in the morning and on the day they engaged in short bouts of activity throughout the day, compared with the day they sat for the whole day, the study found.

In addition, when the participants engaged in short bouts of activity throughout the day, they reported a better mood and lower levels of fatigue and food cravings at the end of the day, compared to when they exercised only in the morning and when they sat all day. [4 Easy Ways to Get More Exercise]

In general, although both the morning exercise and short bouts of activity tended to boost energy levels and put people in a better mood, the effects of the morning exercises faded steadily over the day, whereas the effects of the short bouts of exercise lasted longer.

"Introducing short bouts of activity during the workday of sedentary office workers is a promising approach to improve overall well-being at work,' the researchers, from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, wrote in their study, published in the November issue of the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.

The researchers also tested the participants' cognitive performance — that is, their attention levels and ability to process information — but there were no differences in performance between the exercise days and the sedentary day.

The findings are similar to those of a 2014 study from researchers at the University of Minnesota, which found that people who started using standing desks experienced increases in their energy levels, decreases in their fatigue and a reduced appetite.

The researchers noted that their study included only healthy people in the normal weight range, and so more research is needed to see if the findings apply to other populations, such as people who are obese. In addition, to confirm the results, larger studies, as well as studies conducted in "real world" environments (such as an office, as opposed to a health center), are needed, they said.

The study was funded in part by Johnson & Johnson Health and Wellness Solutions, which develops products that focus on wellness and prevention, such as digital health coaching, for consumers and businesses.

Original article on Live Science.

Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.