Even when people engage in the recommended 2.5 hours per week of physical activity, there is increasing evidence to suggest that being inactive in the remaining time of the week is important for health.
Researchers aren’t yet sure how much we can sit during the day without incurring health risks, but findings suggest the more you move, the better it is for you.
Below we outline some of the health risks posed by too much sitting, followed by some suggestions about how you can get more movement into your day.
Too much sitting has been linked to disease
Too much sitting can cause high blood pressure and high blood sugar, and will likely increase your risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease or heart attack. One analysis which combined the results of a number of studies found that compared to people who are more active those that spend a long time not moving had a:
- steep increase in risk of diabetes
- increase in risk if cardiovascular disease
- high risk of death due to the above factors
Inactivity makes you overweight
Even if you exercise, too much sitting can make it hard to lose weight. Studies have shown that people who spend more time watching TV tend to gain more weight over time and are more likely to be obese.
Movement improves mood
You are more likely to have anxiety or depression if you sit for long periods of time. In one recent study, employees who sat for longer than 6 hours each day were more likely to have anxiety or depression. Employees who sat for less than 3 hours a day had fewer of those symptoms.
You cut the risk of cancer
Some cancers, especially those associated with your weight and metabolic functions, have been linked to too much sitting or lying down. That includes breast, colon and endometrial cancer.
Life expectancy increases
Sitting for long periods of time increases the likelihood that you will die. One study found that adults who sat for 11 hours or more were 40% more likely to die within three years than those who sat for less than four hours.
How to sit less and move around more while at work
If you have to spend a lot of time at your desk or find yourself sitting for prolonged periods of time try the following tips:
- Make time to get up out of your chair and stretch at regular intervals, once every hour is ideal
- Stand while talking on the phone or eating lunch
- If you work at a desk for long periods of time, try a standing desk – or improvise with a high table or counter
- Walk laps with your colleagues rather than gathering in a conference room for meetings
- Go for a walk on your lunch break
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator