Most of us know too much sitting can cause weight gain, whether you’re watching television, driving, clicking through websites or working at a desk. However, the long-term effects of inactivity are much worse.
“Just one minute after settling into a seat, something happens,” says Gina Ryan, program manager at Wellmark's Well for Life Center. “Your calorie-burning rate drops to one third of what it is when you’re walking. So, even moderate levels of sitting — between three and eight hours a day — quickly create a negative impact.”
The solution isn't to spend your day standing instead of sitting. “The point is to get movement throughout the day as you are able," says Ryan. “If you can and your job allows it, avoid sitting or standing for hours at a time. Incorporate movement into your daily activities as much as possible.”
Research links sedentary behaviors to increased risk of kidney, colon and uterine cancers, plus obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other chronic conditions.
Why does movement matter?
“Physical activity helps you burn calories, build strength and control or lose weight,” according to Ryan. “As exercise improves overall health, it encourages the breakdown of fats and sugars in the body. When you stop moving, you’re more likely to pack on the pounds that can trigger high blood pressure, high blood sugar and other health problems.”
Surprisingly, even people who engage in regular exercise aren’t off the hook. Physical activity combats the dangers of prolonged sitting, but it doesn’t completely erase risk.
Every move you make adds up
As researchers call attention to the negative impact of too much sitting, every move you make becomes more important. You’ll benefit from adding activity to your day, even if you already exercise regularly, so get moving with these tips.
At the office
- When the weather allows, schedule walking meetings rather than sitting in a conference room.
- Organize a lunchtime walking group. Even a 15-minute stroll makes a difference.
- Stand and pace while you’re talking on the phone.
- Ask your employer about standing desks, adjustable-height desks or treadmill desks that keep you moving during the day. For a budget-friendly option, stand at a high table while you work.
- Take the long route to the water fountain, bathroom or coffee shop.
- Walk to co-workers’ desks to deliver messages, instead of sending emails.
- Set your timer for every 30 to 60 minutes, stretching and strolling each time it goes off.
- If you take the bus to work, stand rather than sit.
- When you just can’t leave your chair, shift positions frequently.
Around the house
- Clean a bit each day. You’ll burn calories by sweeping, dusting, vacuuming and washing the dishes.
- Stretch, lift weights or exercise while watching TV. Or, get up and stretch or move during commercial breaks.
- Trade your social media time for activities that involve movement: walking, playing with the kids, visiting museums, or trying new activities like skiing or ice skating.
Out and about
- Track your steps with a pedometer or fitness app. Aim for at least 10,000 steps a day. Don't have an activity tracker yet? Check out the deals and discounts available through Blue365.
- Pick up the pace. Fast walking burns extra calories.
- Use the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Walk or bike to your destination, when the weather permits; or park far away from the door.
Need more ideas to help you get up and get active? Take a look at all our fitness articles. Here you'll find tips and tricks for all goals and fitness levels.