There is an epidemic of sedentary behavior in America that is having perilous effects on our health and wellbeing. Whether you are someone who meets the recommended guidelines of 30 minutes of moderate to intense exercise five days a week or are just getting started into a fitness routine, too much sitting is associated with an increasing list of health concerns. Let me say it simply: too much sitting can shorten your life. 

Now, I don’t want to scare you if you’ve been sitting most of the day, but maybe a bit of a shiver will get you up and moving.

If you are someone who exercises regularly, but spends more than six hours a day sitting, research shows you may STILL have as large as a 40%-50% greater risk of death over the next 15 years than those who sit for less than three hours a day.

A recent study analyzing the results of 18 studies involving 800,000 participants found that comparing people who spent the most time sitting with those who spent the least time, there were increased risk of diabetes (112%), cardiovascular events (147%), death from cardiovascular causes (90%) and death from all causes (49%).

Dr Ala Alwan, the World Health Organization’s Assistant Director-General for Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health said, “Physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for all global deaths, with 31% of the world’s population not physically active.”

The average adult spends 90%of their leisure time sitting down and less than half of adults meet World Health Organization physical activity recommendations.

Our bodies are not made for inactivity. Our well-oiled physical structure, driven by the heart as the engine, is made for muscle and bone mobility, stability, agility, coordination, endurance, balance, and strength—not sitting on the couch.

What to do if you spend a fair amount of time sitting?

  • Work at a standing desk or treadmill desk
  • Walk or bike to work
  • Take a brief stand up or walking break, up to 10 minutes at least every hour
  • Stand at meetings whenever possible
  • When you sit down, sit down then stand up and then sit down
  • When you stand up, stand up then sit down and then stand up
  • Park further away from your office, or get off the bus/train/subway a few stops earlier
  • Always take the stairs, not elevators
  • Be an active sitter on a stability ball at your desk
  • Keep the printer away from your desk, perhaps in another office
  • Take active stretch breaks, push-ups, squats, lunges, reach-and-pulls, twists and turns
  • Keep stretch bands, light-weights, and other small exercise equipment in your office for lunch breaks

“The perils of overwork are slight compared with the dangers of inactivity,” according to Thomas Alva Edison. Boy, did he turn on the lights on this one!

Do you spend a lot of time sitting throughout the day?  What tips do you have to combat a sedentary lifestyle?

Post contributed by Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D.  Dr. Mantell has served as a long-time Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego and today is the Senior Fitness Consultant for Behavioral Sciences for the American Council on Exercise, a behavioral sciences coach, an author and a national fitness-health speaker.