Could too much time in the chair send you to an early grave? According to an increasing body of research, the answer is unfortunately yes.
On average, adults sit for about nine hours each day, and much of this time is continuous sitting. This lack of movement can lead to unhealthy levels of blood glucose, insulin and blood fats and can increase the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer. In children, too much sitting is strongly linked with obesity.
Unfortunately, research also shows that doing regular exercise may not fully protect against the health risks of long periods of continuous sitting. Even if you go to the gym for an hour or two each day, if you spend the rest of the day sitting you are still at risk.
So what can you do, particularly if your job or study means you need to spend most of your day in the chair? The good news is that just breaking up this sitting time and avoiding prolonged periods of sitting can go a long way towards reducing the risk.
Here are a few tips to get you moving more and sitting less:
- Take regular movement breaks – ideally a 2-5 minute activity break every 30 to 60 minutes. This could be getting a glass of water, going to the bathroom, walking to talk to a colleague rather than emailing, standing while you are talking on the phone, doing some household chores or even just doing a few stretches at your desk.
- Minimise screen time outside of work, whether it’s television, computer games or checking social media on your phone.
- Look for opportunities to move more during your day – taking the stairs, parking a bit further from the shops, walking to a further bus-stop, or standing rather than sitting on public transport – every little bit counts.
Need help to take charge over your chair? The Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute have developed a free Rise & Recharge app to help you to sit less and move more. Visit http://riserecharge.com/ to find out more.
- Bizwas et al. Sedentary time and its association with risk for disease incidence, mortality, and hospitalization in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Annals of internal medicine 2015;162(2):123-32.
- de Rezende et al. Sedentary Behavior and Health Outcomes: An Overview of Systematic Reviews. PLoS One. 2014 Aug 21;9(8):e105620
- Benatti FB, Ried-Larsen M. The Effects of Breaking up Prolonged Sitting Time: A Review of Experimental Studies. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2015;47(10):2053-61.