Sitting can lead to serious health risks + 7 ways to sit less

Businesswoman working at home, sitting down at a desk, about to stand up

Many of us spend most of our day sitting, which unfortunately can pose risks to our health. New research also suggests that we might even be putting our lives at risk.

“Whether it is for work, watching tv or just relaxing, sitting is a natural part of too much of our waking hours,” says Tyler Waclawski, employee well-being manager for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. “Unfortunately, our lifestyles have become increasingly sedentary. As a result, we need to actively reduce sitting so it doesn’t negatively impact our health.”

What too much sitting can do to you

Tyler Waclawski: For most of us, modern society is set up around sitting in some form or fashion. Remote work has led to even more sitting, since it removes opportunities for movement, like walking from your car to the office or walking from your desk to the conference room for a meeting.

Sitting for long periods of time, regardless of what you’re doing, can lead to stiff joints and tight muscles. Those who sit too much are more likely to develop serious health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. We’re seeing evidence that it can significantly shorten your life.

Research published in JAMA Network Open found that people who spend a lot of time sitting at work are 16% more likely to die earlier than normal than people who don’t. Those who spent most of their day in a chair had a 34% greater risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than those who didn’t sit much during the workday.

On the positive side, researchers found that making an effort to stand and move around reduced the risk. Spending 15-30 minutes of leisure time engaged in physical activity could mitigate the risk, as well.

7 ways to sit less

Tyler Waclawski: There are plenty of things you can do to help reduce the time you spend sitting. The easiest one of all: stand up more often.

Here are a few tips to help you sit less:

  1. Set an alert on your phone, watch or computer to remind yourself to get up and move. Aim to incorporate some movement at least 3-4 times a day, but the more the better!
  2. Stand when you talk on the phone.
  3. Try using a standing desk. If you don’t work at a desk, try standing for tasks you usually perform sitting down.
  4. Alternate sitting and standing throughout your workday. Making periodic changes throughout the day can make a big difference.
  5. Find ways to walk more. Look for ways to walk around your workplace or take the long way anywhere that you need to go. You can start a walking routine.
  6. Work movement into other parts of your daily routine. Before you settle into the couch after dinner, take a short walk and get some fresh air.
  7. Walk on a treadmill or pedal an exercise bike while you watch TV or listen to a sporting event or podcast.

“You don’t have to change everything about how you spend your day – just try to incorporate movement whenever you can,” says Tyler Waclawski. “Remember, any step toward a healthy habit is a step in the right direction.”

More from Tyler Waclawski on WellTuned

Jennifer Larson

Jennifer Larson is Nashville-based writer and editor with nearly 20 years of experience. She specializes in health care and family issues.

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