Sitting is the New Smoking: How to Move More Throughout the Day

Sitting is the New Smoking: How to Move More Throughout the Day

Even if you identify as a desk jockey, it’s no excuse to damage your health with all that sitting.

New research suggests that if you’re stuck seated, some simple lifestyle changes can offset your sedentary habits.

“Even if we exercise regularly, most of us sit or recline for an average of 11 hours a day,” explains researcher Wuyou Sui, a doctoral student in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Western Ontario.

“Our bodies just aren’t designed to function well with such low levels of activity — we all have to move more often than we do, or endure a variety of chronic health issues,” Sui said in a university news release.

Recruiting university students for their research, the young adults were put through a six-week program created to change their sedentary lifestyle. The students got to select which strategies would be effective in encouraging them to stand up and take more frequent breaks from their desk; strategies ranged from setting timers, to creating phone reminders.


Upon completing the program, the students found their strategies became habits, where they were now taking breaks at least once every hour, according to the study’s results. Before the program, the students sat on average for more than 90 minutes at a time.

“We can build into our day some simple strategies to bring us out of our chairs and off our couches,” said study co-author Harry Prapavessis, director of the Exercise and Health Psychology Lab at Western.

“It may or may not make us more productive — we suspect it does, but the jury is still out on that one — but we know the health impact of getting to our feet is a positive one.”

Even after a couple weeks since the end of the study, the participating students still sat for shorter time periods, evidence that their adopted techniques in the six-weeks had become routine.

Along with phone reminders and timers, the students cited standing during phone calls, making more frequent but shorter trips to the water fountain, and replacing emails with walking discussions, as other helpful strategies to combat sedentariness.


“It’s human nature to stumble when trying to add new activities to a busy day, which is why diets and exercise resolutions sometimes fall flat,” Sui said. “This study shows we can combat ‘occupational sitting’ not by adding a new activity but by sliding a substitute regimen into the place of an existing one.”

With health experts continuously referring to too much sitting as the new smoking, it’s important to get up and move regularly throughout the day. Even a bit of movement is better than none.

If the techniques the students tried isn’t enough to get you up and moving, The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more information on physical activity.

Now go stretch your legs!

Photo Credit: robuart/; SaimonTraur/; tong patong/

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