Sit Less and Move More

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Sitting on the dock [of the bay]

Could things be as simple as sitting less and moving more? Around the world we are spending more and more time sitting and less time on our feet… And even if you are doing exercise in the gym or at certain times of the day it may not be enough to balance out the effects of spending the rest of the day being sedentary.

When thinking about this I realised that many people including children at school and those with office jobs spend pretty much 90% of their time sitting and a small portion of the day walking around the place, usually while commuting or maybe grabbing lunch. The more I looked into it the more it became clear that getting rid of this sedentary behaviour could be the key to getting people on the right track when it comes to building a healthy lifestyle.

Before taking things any further lets look at the hard evidence against what is classified sedentary behaviour – the term is coined by a low level of activity, a level of activity that can only really be achieved by sitting for the majority of the day (watching TV, at a desk, driving, in class etc….). The problem comes in that even if we are active a few times a week – let’s say we go on a few walks and hit the gym twice for a 30 minute workout. The effects of spending the rest of your time sitting still stand and can have some dire implications. There were a few papers (see here and here) recently released which did a long term study on sedentary behaviour and came up with some interesting stuff….

‘Individuals who sat the most were roughly 50% more likely to die during the follow-up period than individuals who sat the least, even after controlling for age, smoking, and physical activity levels.’

‘Numerous epidemiological studies have linked sedentary behavior with obesity, cardiometabolic risk, and even some cancers.’

‘Sitting too much is not the same as exercising too little.’ – Dr Marc Hamilton

This is probably down to a few things - Firstly when sitting all day we are more likely to snack and probably eat more, secondly our bodies become less efficient in terms of burning fat (I am convinced that movement of any kind triggers a shift towards fat burning) and finally we just don’t burn as much as we would if we were to be moving all day or at least for a portion of it.

So it makes pretty grim reading but will hopefully give you reason to try and avoid sitting around for too much of the day, and to deal with things I have come up with a few bullet points which address the issue.

  • The core of health should be movement - This comes first, before eating better and all that comes with it we need to get into the habit of movement. This often leads to a consious shift towards wanting a more healthy lifestyle, Most people are healthy because they move not the other way around.
  • Get on Your feet, moving stretching and playing - Just doing the simple things are key, the best thing is they can all be implemented into your daily life – Add in a few short walks everyday and stretch upon rising and going to bed.
  • Find ways to do work or relax without sitting – Stand on your knees at the desk, use stools as they require more balance or sit on a swiss ball.
  • Add activity to the day - Use the stairs, walk to TV to change channel or volume, do some quick bodyweight exercises in the morning before breakfast.
  • Spend time on your feet - When on public transport for short journeys I like to stand even if there are seats free, this sneaks more standing and less sitting time into the day.
  • Sit upright - when you are sitting and avoid slumping/slouching, this helps train good posture and obviously requires more energy than slouching.

Those are just a few ideas but I am sure there are loads of other creative ways people can come up with in order to stand more and sit less. (Please chime in with some comments!)

What is clear though is that as humans we are made to move, this doesn’t mean running around on a daily basis but rather spending a good portion of our days walking, standing and moving in general. If we don’t our bodies rebel and health declines, the good part is a bit of daily movement can counterbalance the effects of sedentary behaviour. Just make sure you space the movement throughout the day and don’t spend any big portions sitting……..

Comments

  1. says

    My father and grandfather both worked on their feet their whole lives. Since I’m a personal trainer I seem to follow suit. My whole family lives an active lifestyle and it keeps us feeling young.

    I started a blog about a year and a half ago and love creating content for it but find sitting in front of a computer is really hard on my body. Not moving around hurts. I try not to sit for too long and put my laptop on a high dresser at times to work standing. Sometimes I go through some easy mobility drills in between long writing sessions.

    Great post,

    Best – Mike

  2. says

    I used to work with a fellow who had no chair in his office. His computer was located on a high table and we worked all day standing – he stated it was much healthier and better for his back than sitting all day.

    I personally eat my breakfast and lunch while standing (I have a high buffet table right next to the kitchen window). I find that just doing this one little think has done wonders for reducing back pain – especially since I sit at the computer all day long.

  3. says

    Our world definitely makes it challenging to live an active lifestyle–one that has more movement than just a 30 – 60 minute workout. I wish more employers could see the benefits of providing opportunities for their employees to move around more. It is so essential to life.

  4. Rodney says

    I used to stand much of the day at work. Now I sit at a desk at home, and along with driving my car I have noticed my posture is not very good. I tend to lean and slouch so that I have lots of body asymmetries now.

    I am trialing a standing desk. I finished a cheap piece of birch plywood and set it on top of two bookcases. I moved my computer there so most of the time I stand at that desk, and can sit at the old one if I need a break. The height is more comfortable now, and I don’t reach and slouch my right shoulder as I used to using a mouse. If I like this I will build a permanent solution.

    Now, about that standing car…??

  5. says

    Although it does sound so cliche, I think lifestyle movement is really essential. It really is easy to end up just sitting around a lot if you don’t pay attention, so I’ve had to give it some conscious thought to start moving more during the day. I work at home and unschool my two kids, so if I’m looking I can find all kinds of excuses to move around… but I can also find a lot of excuses to sit around if I’m not careful. I think figuring out a way to stand while at the computer is a great idea since most of us relate to spending too much time sitting in front of the time.

  6. Anne-Margaret says

    What a great post! I use a pedometer to measure how many steps I take each day – I work towards 10,000. I am only able to reach 10,000 steps if I take my dog for a thirty minute walk in the morning and then take another thirty minute walk either at lunch or in the evening. The rest of the day my job has me at my desk. You really have to pay attention to getting in the movement throughout the day!

  7. Veronica says

    I started running in August of 2010 using the couch to 5k program. I am now a full time runner. If I take a 2 day rest period and have a sedentary couple of days, my run on the 3rd day is aweful. If I keep active and cross train for those 2 days my run on the 3rd day is amazing. We all need to keep moving.

  8. Stephen says

    I’m office chair bound, but I sit in a cross legged yoga pose as it helps keep my back straight (and also I tend to fidget a bit in this pose). Not as ideal as working out in the fields, but does the trick. While I do get up and stretch (sometimes even doing a few pressups near my desk), I need to make this more regular.

    I also make sure to use the stairs and make tea breaks on a different floor.

  9. says

    I remember reading the study about the benefits of walking and moving around. I have a desk job and try to get up and walk around every hour or so. I supplement that with daily walks with my dog in the morning.

    @ Dave: Yup it seems to be everywhere now. I caught onto it last week and decided to write the article, seems that so many people are now using standing desks on a daily basis. I am not sure if it is necessary and probably puts a lot of strain on the knees (I used to work on my feet all day and know). Just throwing in stretches and walking should be enough, maybe some pushups here and there wouldn’t hurt either.

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