Spending your days sitting still may threaten your health and your waistline, research suggests. But there are easy ways to defend yourself from the potential risks of too much chair or couch time. Even at work, when you may be glued to your desk for long stretches, it doesn’t take much time or effort to protect your health.
What’s Wrong With Sitting?
Too much time spent sitting may increase your risk for chronic muscle pain and a number of different diseases, including diabetes and cancer. Research also indicates long periods of sedentary behavior contribute to weight gain and obesity. Even if you spend time each day exercising, lots of sitting may still harm your health. Fortunately, there are quick and easy ways to counteract the effects of too much sitting at home, at work, and while you’re traveling.
If you spend a lot of time watching television or reading, standing up and going for a quick walk once an hour or during commercial breaks is a good idea. Here’s why: Long periods of physical inactivity are the real problem when it comes to sitting. Even small movements like fidgeting in your seat or standing up may protect your health. If you can perform household chores standing up instead of sitting, that’s another good way to stay active while at home.
Hourly strolls may reduce the health risks of too much sitting. A recent study found walking for just 2 minutes an hour appears to wipe out the negative effects of long sedentary periods. Standing up when you’re on the phone or walking to your colleague’s office instead of sending her an email are more ways to keep your body in motion at work. Again, anything that breaks up those long periods of inactivity are going to be beneficial. Long walks or exercise are best. But even quick trips to the water cooler or bathroom are helpful if you take them frequently, studies indicate.
Many forms of public transportation—such as trains and busses—allow you to stand while they’re in motion. If you can spend your commute on your feet, that’s a good idea. Taking hourly breaks during long car trips, and walking or cycling whenever possible, are more great ways to cut down on the time you spend sitting. If you have a long flight or train trip, keep your muscles active by getting up from your seat every hour, even if only for a minute or two. If that’s not possible, stretching exercises like straightening and bending your legs or reaching for the ceiling may help counteract the stagnation of long sedentary periods.
Sitting is a big part of life, and there are days when you won’t be able to spend much time on your feet. Luckily, short and frequent periods of light activity appear to mitigate many of the health risks associated with sedentary behaviors.