Sitting Less is Good for You

Julie Shenkman
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The research is clear: Too much sitting creates a host of health problems. The often-recommended antidote — exercising more — may not be an effective solution on its own, according to a new advisory from the American Heart Association. Instead, the AHA states that sitting less is a key component of reducing the risk of diseases that result from a sedentary lifestyle.

Excessive sitting is a common health hazard for people ranging from desk-bound professionals to inactive individuals. It causes an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes, among others. In fact, according to the Harvard Medical School, too much sitting increases the risk of death from all causes.

To offset these risks, health care professionals correctly advise office workers to increase their exercise levels outside of work. However, the AHA advisory suggests that a better approach would to be tell people to pair exercise with sitting less. By working in small bouts of activity throughout the day, desk-bound professionals can sit less, move more and reduce the risk of numerous health problems.

Use Activity Cues

The AHA advisory suggests that people who sit for long periods of time should make a point to get up twice per hour. This step can be difficult to remember for professionals who are tied to their computers, so activity cues can be a useful solution. For instance, select a commonly occurring task, such as answering the phone or checking email, and then each time the phone rings, stand up to take the call. When it's time to read emails, do so on your phone as you walk around the office. This strategy combines sitting less with continued productivity, making it a viable option for people who are pressed for time.

Increase In-Person Communication

Modern offices often employ digital tools for in-office conversations. Replacing these interactions with in-person communication makes sitting less a breeze. If you use instant messages to ask questions or discuss projects, walk over to a co-worker's office for a quick conversation. The same goes for texting and Facebook messaging. In addition to increasing activity, face-to-face communication enables employees to improve relationships and create a more positive work environment.

Change Locations for Lunch

If hurried meals in front of a computer have become a habit for you, new lunch locations can turn sitting less into a pleasant, stress-relieving activity. Move to a different spot while you eat, even if it's just for 10 minutes. A walk to the break room and back helps the body shake off the effects of sitting and also gives professionals a chance to clear their heads. Other alternatives include walking to a restaurant, bringing a bagged lunch to a bench outside of the office or going to the cafeteria to grab a snack. For people who must work through lunch, an offsite business lunch or an informal walk-and-eat brainstorming session with a colleague might be a good solution.

The right combination of exercise and sitting less can help reverse the negative health effects of a sedentary job or lifestyle. By finding ways to break up long periods of lack of physical movement during your workday, you can make the task easier and more accessible. The AHA has concluded that remembering to stand up and move more is even more important than a dedicated exercise regimen.

Photo Courtesy of archipelography at


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