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The Health Risks of Too Much Sitting

November 2018

Karen Ensle Ed.D., RDN, FAND, CFCS
Family & Community Health Sciences Educator
Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County

Most adults in America are sitting about eight hours each day. We sit at work, we sit in the car, bus or train, we sit while reading, in front of the television and on the computer and we sit while visiting with friends and family, especially around meals. Important science-based research indicates that sitting too much is related to serious health problems even when you go to the gym or walk every day.

All that sitting causes your body to work against gravity affecting your large muscle groups in your legs, arms, and back. This in turn means these muscle groups need less fuel. You burn fewer calories and your blood sugar known as glucose and blood fats known as triglycerides rise. This can lead to health problems!

The good news is there are ways to increase your activity even when you have to sit all day at work or school. Here are some tips to help you to "Get Moving, Get Healthy":

  • Break up sitting for long periods of time with small active movements by tapping your toes, fidgeting in your seat or leg raises or lower leg lifts.
  • Tighten your stomach for a minute and then follow up with tightening other muscles in your legs, buttocks or arms.
  • Stand when you are on the phone.
  • Stand up every 15-20 minutes and do some simple stretches or march in place.
  • Try some knee-bends or desk push-ups.
  • Take a walk to the copy machine or down the hall. Walk each day at lunch for 30 minutes and you will see a difference in how you feel—more vibrant and less sleepy!
  • Instead of sending a text or e-mail, get-up and go to your co-worker’s desk and talk to them instead.
  • Try a stability ball to sit on instead of a typical desk chair.
  • Consider a treadmill desk or stationery bike in your office. Rethink your chair and, if you are the boss, try "walking meetings" either outdoors or indoors depending on your work location.
  • Make sure you walk daily and try for 10,000 steps each day. Invite friends or co-workers to walk with you at work. Skip the elevator and take the stairs.

Make sure you do not sit too long each day. All adults need to get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. Take "small steps" to keep active and the results will pay off in better overall health as you age.