Can too much time sitting contribute to poor health? Yes, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and various cancers are all associated with a sedentary lifestyle. Most people have heard that 30 minutes of physical exercise each day can improve your health but sitting the remainder of the day is actually very harmful. Current evidence suggests that you are increasing your risk for poor health in a manner comparable to smoking and obesity if you only exercise 30 minutes a day and sit down the remainder of the time.
There is actually a direct relationship to the amount of time spent sitting and health impairments. Rather than track how much time you exercise see if you can track how much time you sit. Do you sit greater than a quarter of the waking hours in a day? What about half the day? Or three/fourths?
We spend a lot of time sitting in front of a computer, television or driving. These things are often unavoidable but we must integrate frequent “activity breaks” if we don’t want to suffer from poor health and early death. Try to get in the habit of not allowing yourself more than one continuous hour of sitting. Take frequent breaks by walking down the hall or around the block. Do desk exercises such as squats or vigorous arm movements to simulate running in place. Whenever possible, stand up, take the stairs and park your car further away.
Rather than focus on what we are doing to exercise once a day, try to minimize the time we are sedentary throughout the day.
Eric Chaconas DPT, FAAOMPT
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Fellow American Academy of Orthopaedic Manual Physical Therapy