Sit Less Move More

There is strong scientific evidence that says frequent moderate to vigorous intensity exercise during the week plays a significant preventative role in cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and some cancers.

The human body, with approximately 640 muscles and 206 bones, is made to move. Yet, advances in technology have created an environment that promotes sedentary behaviors. People can now spend the majority of their waking day in a chair watching TV, working at a desk, playing video games, ordering take-out and delivery, reading, shopping, banking, eating a meal at a table, or navigating the stock market. Current research findings are revealing that too much sitting during the day is detrimental to a person’s health.

"Current research findings are revealing that too much sitting during the day is detrimental to a person’s health."

Sitting Too Much Is a Health Hazard

The phrase “sedentary behavior” comes from the Latin word “sedere,” which means, “to sit.” Although the human body is made to be in frequent motion, people can sit for many hours at a time, day after day. Sedentary behavior is not simply the absence of physical activity, but rather a unique set of behaviors that have negative effects on health. Recent research suggests adults spend ~60% or >8 hours of their waking day being sedentary! Two major contributors to the obesity epidemic in the U.S. are a lack of physical activity and sitting too much.

Some of the first evidence of the harmful effects of too much sitting first came to light in the 1950s, when scientists showed that men in physically active jobs had less coronary artery disease during middle-age than men in physically inactive jobs.

A half century later, a Canadian health study of 17,013 men and women aged 18-90 years revealed that there is a strong relationship between sitting and all health causes of mortality, even if people are meeting the minimum physical activity guidelines. Thus, physical activity does not cancel out the ill effects of too much sitting during the day. The highest mortality risk is seen with obese men and women who spend most of their waking time sitting.

"Physical activity does not cancel out the ill effects of too much sitting during the day."

Although in our current society we cannot eliminate time spent in sedentary behaviors, emerging research suggests that interrupting time spent sitting with light activities such as standing or walking, is important for preventing the negative health consequences of sitting too much. Use of height-adjustable standing desks and addition of movement throughout your day can help reduce or break up extended periods of job-related sitting. At home, getting up and moving at least once an hour can also combat the negative effects of sitting too much.

Why Is Too Much Sitting So Harmful?

Fascinating new research is unraveling the mystery of why too much daily sitting is so unsafe. Scientists think that too much sitting impairs the body’s ability to deposit fat from the blood stream into the body.

These constantly elevated blood fats are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. In addition, researchers have observed that too much sitting during the day impairs the functioning of the body’s healthy cholesterol, known as HDL cholesterol. HDL is the scavenger cholesterol that cleans up plaque sticking to arteries. If healthy cholesterol loses its ability to clean arteries, it will also increase a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease.

Finally, decreases in muscle contractions with prolonged sitting have been shown to reduce insulin sensitivity, which increases the risk for type 2 diabetes. Science indicates that moving more during the day, in addition to getting the daily 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity on a daily basis, is necessary to lower one’s risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and other causes of mortality.

Create Your Get Active Action Plan

Creating a “Get Active Action Plan” incorporates different movements that fit seamlessly with your activities in work and your daily living. A very helpful and informative website for developing an action plan is This website is full of innovative ideas and information about adding activity to one’s daily life. Here are some get active ideas to do at work and during your daily life.

Get Active Action Plan Ideas for WORK

  • Take a walk break every time you take a coffee or tea break.
  • Do some leisurely walking with colleagues after you eat lunch together .
  • Stand up and move whenever you have a drink of water.
  • Whenever possible stand up as opposed to sitting down.
  • Stand up and talk on business phone conversations.
  • Stop at the park on your way home from work and take a walk.
  • Walk to a co-worker’s desk instead of emailing or calling her/him.
  • Walk briskly when headed to meetings.
  • Take the stairs whenever you can.
  • Take the long route to the restroom.
  • Schedule walking meetings with colleagues.
  • Schedule short breaks into your electronic calendar as reminders to move.
  • Every 45 min-1 hour, do some squats, lunges, upper body stretches, shoulder rolls.

Get Active Action Plan Ideas for DAILY LIFE

  • Take a family walk after dinner.
  • Get a pedometer and start tracking your steps. Progress up to 10,000 steps or more a day.
  • Walk your dog daily.
  • Replace those Sunday drives with Sunday walks.
  • When watching TV, stand up and move with every commercial break.
  • Walk up and down escalators instead of just riding them.
  • Walk fast when doing errands.
  • Pace the sidelines at your kids’ athletic games.
  • Walk up and down the shopping aisles at the store before you shop.
  • Pick up a new active hobby, such as cycling or hiking.
  • After reading six pages of a book, get up and move a little.
  • Try standing and moving whenever you are talking on a cell phone.
  • Play with your kids 15-30 minutes a day.
  • Dance to your favorite inspiring music selections.
  • Walk briskly in the mall.

The Key to Living Healthier is Staying Active

Most people seek to live vibrant lives with good physical and mental health. However, there are considerable health consequences to living the life of a couch potato. It is important to dedicate 30 minutes of each day for your moderate-intensity physical activity. In addition, making small movement changes in your daily life by creating your own “Get Active Action Plan” is equally important to your overall health. Get moving, and stay moving!

Get moving, and stay moving!

Republished with permission of the American College of Sports Medicine. Copyright © 2016 American College of Sports Medicine. This brochure was created and updated by Len Kravitz, Ph.D. and Chantal A. Vella, Ph.D. and is a product of ACSM’s Consumer Information Committee.

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