RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Exercise is important, but it’s also important not to spend most of your day parked in a chair. Australian researchers found that people who sit for prolonged periods of time during their nonexercise waking hours may face significant metabolic and health effects, including chronic disease. Their examination of current research on the topic was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
THE DETAILS: More than two-thirds of middle-aged people in developed countries like the U.K., the U.S., and Australia are overweight or obese; more than 5% of children fit that description. Many people spend half of their daily waking hours in prolonged sitting situations, which can lead to not only obesity, but also type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other chronic health problems. The study’s authors cited recent research showing that women who spent lots of time sitting gained weight even though they exercised regularly. They conclude that people need to not only exercise, but also break up the periods of sitting around during the day, too. “Ideally, having a good mix of standing, like shuffling about and walking in the working day, and avoiding too much prolonged sitting, is what business owners, managers, and workers should be aiming for,” says study coauthor Neville Owen, PhD, director of Australia's Cancer Prevention Research Centre at the University of Queensland, in Brisbane.
WHAT IT MEANS: Even if you’re generally fit, you need to take time to peel yourself off your chair several times a day. “Moving from a sitting to standing position works large muscles in the legs and buttocks quite nicely,” Owen says.
Try these strategies to add short bursts of light movement to your daily routine:
• Rise as though your life depends on it. New Zealand researchers recently found that sitting at a desk for hours on end can lead to dangerous blood clots in your legs. The condition, known as deep-vein thrombosis, is usually linked to long jet flights. Luckily, the fix is as cheap and easy as they come: Twice an hour, stand up and take a 5-minute stroll around the office. During your lunch break, take a longer walk. Use an upstairs bathroom when nature calls to add a little step-work into your day.
• Keep burning calories. If you exercise on the weekend, do some grocery shopping, window-shopping, or light yard work after your workout. Anything that keeps you from slumping onto the couch right away will help burn some extra calories.
• Don’t take a seat. One busy mother found by walking around the playground area for 15 minutes rather than sitting on a bench, she burned 50 extra calories. Another torched 120 more calories in an hour by standing during her daughter's dance class. “For every hour you change from sitting to standing, you burn 100 extra calories,” says Michelle Stanten, fitness director of Prevention magazine.