Did you know sitting too much can increase your health risks⎯even if you already exercise?
Current medical science indicates even if you’re meeting the recommended exercise guidelines, there are still negative consequences from sitting too much the rest of your day. In other words, you can be an ‘active couch potato’. Some experts go as far as saying, “Sitting is the new smoking.”
Studies show adults spend more than half their waking hours sitting, including more than four hours of television per day. This amount of sitting is associated with significant health risks, such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and musculoskeletal problems. Maybe our televisions and computers should come with a warning label: “Warning watching this screen for too long could be hazardous to your health!”
New evidence shows regular interruptions of sitting with standing and taking short walking breaks can lower your risk and improve your health. These short breaks provide a sufficient stimulus to lower blood glucose, improve cholesterol, and increase energy expenditure, all of which work together to lower the risk for heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
Yes, regular exercise is important; however, you can improve your health even more by breaking up your sitting time with more standing and movement throughout your day. Based on current evidence, my philosophy is⎯ALL ACTIVITY COUNTS!
Here are 10 ideas to help you get started:
Take more standing and walking breaks⎯try not to sit for more than 30 minutes at a time. Set reminders on your phone, computer, or watch to remind you to take activity breaks.
Park your car farther away from the door.
Take the stairs instead of using the elevator or escalator.
Get out of the car instead of using the drive-up window.
Use a bathroom or water fountain farther away from your desk. If you have stairs, use one that’s on a different floor.
Become a ‘walkie-talkie’⎯walk while using your cell phone rather than talking while sitting. Walk to someone’s office rather than using e-mail or the phone.
When shopping or while unloading your groceries, lift your bags like weights.
Do you have children or grandchildren in sports? Walk around the playing field during practice or games rather than sitting and watching.
Get creative while sitting or doing routine activities at home or in the office⎯do squats, calf-raises or other bodyweight exercises. Use an exercise ball for your chair and keep hand weights or elastic bands by your desk or television.
Step counters and activity monitors are great for tracking your movement throughout the day. Try to find creative ways to increase your steps each week.
The ideas are endless⎯see how creative you can be. Take a few minutes right now to set a few goals for decreasing your sitting time.
Jody Wilkinson is a physician and exercise physiologist and is on faculty in APU’s Applied Exercise Science program. You can reach Jody at firstname.lastname@example.org.