When Should I Worry About...

Are You Sitting Too Much?

May 1, 2020 - Katie McCallum

We sit while we drive. We sit while we work. We sit while we eat. We sit while we watch TV. And, if you're like me, in between all of this sitting you ride the waves of guilt that come along with dismissing your activity band's "Time to stand!" reminders — hour after hour.

The reality is that we sit a lot. And while there's nothing inherently wrong with sitting, spending too much time sitting can be bad.

In fact, studies show that prolonged sitting is a risk factor for a variety of chronic health conditions, including:

On the flip side, sitting less and moving more is associated with lowering several health risks.

When you're sitting, you're using less energy than when you stand or move. Physical activity comes with many health benefits, including weight loss or weight management, increased energy and improved mental well being. It's also important for maintaining muscle tone and mobility as you age.

While sitting may feel unavoidable at times, there are ways, both during and in between all of that sitting, to move and stand more.

How much sitting is too much?

Think about your day-to-day. While it might not feel like you're sitting that much, you might be surprised — especially if you sit at a desk all day while you work. During the workweek grind, it's easy to just move from your bed to the seat of your car to your desk chair, to your couch — on repeat.

But when experts analyze the handfuls of studies examining the effects of prolonged sitting, the data shows that sitting for more than eight hours a day can have a serious impact on a person's health. In fact, if prolonged sitting is paired with a complete lack of physical activity, the combination can affect your lifespan similar to that of obesity and smoking.

These studies, however, do suggest that getting plenty of exercise can reverse the health risks of prolonged sitting — although more research is needed to confirm these findings.

In the meantime, what is clear is that moving more and sitting less come with substantial health benefits.

How to sit less while working

If your day consists of mostly computer work or meetings, you probably already know that sitting less is hardest while you're working.

Whether you work in an office or at home, use these tips to stand and move more throughout your day:

Take shorter, more frequent breaks. Rather than taking a 15- or 30-minute break here and there, consider taking breaks throughout the day that are shorter and much more frequent. It can be a trip to the breakroom to refill your water bottle, down the hall to say good morning to a coworker, walking in place and stretching at your desk, or even just a lap around the office.

Set up reminders to move — and stick to them. When you're focused on work, remembering to get up and move isn't exactly top of mind. If you have an activity band, enable stand or move reminders. No activity band? No problem. Just set an hourly reminder on your smartphone or through your email software. Most importantly, though, stick to these reminders — even when you feel like you don't have time for a break.

Stand while you work. If you're going to be at your desk all day, why not stand for some of that time? Whether you work in an office or from home, consider investing in a standing desk. Not ready to spend money on one? You may find that creating a makeshift standing desk is easier than you think — especially if you have a tall counter or table.

Rethink the notion that you have to sit during a meeting. Rather than sitting in a conference room, ask for a walking meeting with your coworkers. If you work from home, use headphones to take conference calls while you walk outdoors or around your home. And for those brief standing meetings you have with your team every morning, what if it was truly a standing meeting.

How to sit less at home

So...sitting less might actually be hardest while you're at home — you know, that place where you relax and rest. At the end of an exhausting week, it's hard to resist cozying up on the couch and binge-watching your new favorite show. But, sitting less applies to evenings and weekends, too.

Use these tips to move more and sit less while at home:

Go for a walk. If you make a morning, afternoon or evening walk part of your daily routine, you're much more likely to actually go through with it. And it doesn't have to take up a lot of your day — even just a 15-minute walk is better than no walk at all.

Get moving between episodes. Don't let autoplay control your day. Press pause before that next episode and make time to move around. Even just standing up to walk in place or stretch counts!

Try active sitting. We know, we know — your couch is comfortable. But, if you plan to be sitting for a large portion of your day at home, consider using an unstable sitting option for some of the time. While there are many active sitting options out there on the market, even just balancing on an exercise ball or rocking in a rocking chair is better than melting into your couch for hours.

Find an active hobby. Whether it's cooking, gardening, tinkering in the garage, home improvement projects or something else entirely, consider finding something you enjoy doing that keeps you moving.

Categories: When Should I Worry About...
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