Even for people who exercise regularly, spending too much time sitting may be a health risk. Research has linked sedentary behaviour, or regularly sitting for long periods of time, to increased incidence of certain cancers and chronic diseases, and higher mortality. Ananya Banerjee, PhD, a registered kinesiologist with the Women’s Cardiovascular Health Initiative at Women’s College Hospital, explains that physical activity and sedentary behaviour are two separate health issues. Regular exercise is important to overall health, and Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines recommend 150 hours of moderate to vigorous activity per week. But it’s also important to try to reduce sitting time, and to break up long periods of sitting. Banerjee offers these ideas for taking action on sedentary behaviour at home, at work and while travelling.
Reduce sitting time at home
- Get off the couch and walk around the house during commercial breaks.
- Do household chores, such as folding clothes, washing dishes or ironing, while watching television.
- Stand to read the morning newspaper.
- Wash your car by hand rather than using a drive-through car wash.
- Move around the house when checking text messages and email on your mobile phone.
Reduce sitting time while travelling
- Leave your car at home and take public transit so you walk to and from stops and stations.
- Walk or cycle at least part way to your destination.
- Park your car farther away from your destination and walk the rest of the way.
- Plan regular breaks during long car trips.
- On public transit, stand and offer your seat to a person who really needs it.
- Get on or off public transit one stop or station earlier.
Reduce sitting time at work
- Stand and take a break from your computer every 20-30 minutes.
- Take breaks in sitting time in long meetings.
- Stand to greet a visitor to your workspace.
- Use the stairs.
- Stand during phone calls.
- Walk to your colleague’s desk instead of phoning or emailing.
- Drink more water. Going to the water cooler and the toilet will break up sitting time.
- Move your bin away from your desk so you have to get up to put something in it.
- Use a height-adjustable desk so you can work standing or sitting.
- Have standing or walking meetings.
- Use headsets or the speaker phone during teleconferences so you can stand.
- Eat your lunch away from your desk.
- Stand at the back of the room during presentations.
- Suggest, encourage and take part in organizational fit breaks: timed five- or 10-minute fit breaks for employees offered in the morning and afternoon.
This information is provided by Women’s College Hospital and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: June 22, 2015