Human bodies are meant to be moved and worked throughout the day. Sitting for long periods of time was never part of our DNA and I applaud those who have taken it upon themselves to go to the gym, stay healthy, and workout tirelessly to reverse the effects of sitting all day. However, working out for 1-2 hours a day will not reverse the effects of sitting for up to 8 hours a day.

An Australian study published in the October 2012 issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine issue revealed that people who sit for an average of 6 hours per day watching TV can expect to live 4.8 years less than a person who does not watch TV at all. We can extrapolate this to include sitting at a desk for 6 hours versus not sitting at a desk for 6 hours.

Now, I understand we live in the real world where sitting for extended periods of time is required for many professions and is a part of everyday life. But I am here to offer some tips on moving more and sitting less. We can all agree that movement is the fundamental prescription to help reverse sitting, but if we sit up to 8 hours a day at work and continue to sit when we get into the car and at home; 1-2 hours in a gym is not enough to reverse the damage done during the other 10-12 hours you were awake.

Risks of prolonged sitting/sedentary lifestyle include the following:

  • Increased risk of developing cancer(1)
  • Increased risk of developing heart disease(2)
  • Increased risk of obesity(3)
  • Increased risk to muscular injuries
  • Increased risk of depression(4)

I’m not here to scare you but look at all the risks we will be working to avoid by sitting less!

Now, let’s take a look at 3 things you can do throughout the day to help slow down the effects of sitting.

  1. Lifestyle changes – Stretching frequently! How often does your cat or dog stretch? Pretty often if not every time it gets ready to move after being stationary for a little or a long time. What do we do? We sit, move, and sit some more – rarely ever allowing our bodies to feel full ranges of motion.
  2. Take frequent breaks – Move for 5-10 minutes every hour. You can take walks outside to help improve your mood and get some fresh air, get a snack to help replenish some energy, or refill your water bottle. Moving around a little allows the muscles to really stretch out and get some blood flow going.
  3. Drink water frequently – Your body is made up of at least 60% water. Replenish it frequently and often. Water helps move toxins to the kidneys to be removed, keeps cells hydrated, and helps you from feeling tired due to dehydration. Killing two birds with one stone – this increases the trips to the bathroom which forces you to get up and move, taking care of suggestion #2 above.

Doing these things will help break up the time you sit with a little bit of movement. Don’t let the risks arise before taking action – preventative care is cheaper and less time consuming. Now you know how to begin to move more, sit less and protect yourself from the horrible position of sitting.

(1) Sedentary behavior increases the risk of certain cancers. JNCI J Natl Cancer Inst (2014) 106 (7)

(2) Alpa V. Patel, Leslie Bernstein, Anusila Deka, Heather Spencer Feigelson, Peter T. Campbell, Susan M. Gapstur, Graham A. Colditz, and Michael J. Thun. Leisure Time Spent Sitting in Relation to Total Mortality in a Prospective Cohort of US Adults. Am. J. Epidemiol. (2010) 172 (4): 419-429

(3) Hu FB, Li TY, Colditz GA, Willett WC, Manson JE. Television Watching and Other Sedentary Behaviors in Relation to Risk of Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus in Women. JAMA. 2003;289(14):1785-1791.

(4) Sitting-Time, Physical Activity, and Depressive Symptoms in Mid-Aged Women; van Uffelen, Jannique G.Z. et al. American Journal of Preventive Medicine , Volume 45 , Issue 3 , 276 – 281