13 ways to cut sitting time

Too much sitting could lead to permanent sitting

Too much sitting could lead to permanent sitting

More evidence that too much sitting is bad.

Are you reading this while sitting?  Oh, the irony!  I hope to encourage people to take up healthier behaviors, and sitting around isn’t one of them.  Yet for most people, reading is a sedentary activity.

The latest study on the effects of our sedentary lifestyle is a meta analysis: the researchers combined data from 47 studies and came up with the unsurprising conclusion that

  1. sitting is linked to risk for numerous chronic diseases
  2. spending 30 or 60 minutes a day doing some physical activity doesn’t cancel the effects of hours of sitting
  3. But: if you don’t even do a mere half hour of physical activity each day, the effects of sitting are worse.

Among the health problems linked to excess sitting:

  • higher death rate from heart disease and cancer
  • higher incidence of heart disease and cancer
  • higher incidence of Type 2 diabetes

The study authors didn’t speculate on why sitting has this effect.  Sitting isn’t just an absence of physical exertion.  It’s almost like anti-exercise.  There seems to be something specific about sitting that is metabolically harmful.  There’s speculation that all this sitting adversely affects blood flow, muscle strength, fat metabolism, insulin sensitivity of muscles, and bone strength.   Not to mention all the ill effects of poor posture, from neck strain to a bad back.

So what can you do about this?

  1. If your job is sedentary, take a break and walk around frequently, even if it’s just for a couple of minutes.
  2. If you’re an employer or administrator, investigate ways to encourage employees to take short walk breaks
  3. If you’re an employer or administrator, investigate standing desks
  4. Take the stairs.
  5. If possible, get a standing desk for your home
  6. Walk for transportation whenever possible: to work, to the bank or post office, to the grocery store, coffee shop, library, church, meetings, social gatherings.
  7. When possible, advocate for more walkable neighborhoods in your town or city
  8. When possible, choose a job or home location that encourages more walking, or avoid jobs or commutes that depend on long hours spent sitting in a car.
  9. Stick to daily exercise routines, which are still important even if much of your day is sitting
  10. If possible, do your reading on a treadmill or stationary bicycle.
  11. Don’t just sit in front of the computer or TV at home. Get up, walk around, get out for a walk or other activity.
  12. Find other activities that do not involve sitting: dance classes or dance clubs, sports, exercise classes, yoga, hiking, swimming
  13. Teach your kids: walk with them to school, the library, friends’ homes, the park.

OK now that you’ve finished reading, get up and move.  I’ll be doing that myself.

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