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Fitness Topic: Is Sitting the New Smoking? How to Reduce Sedentary Behaviors

Daniela Santacruz | Exercise Specialist
/ November 12, 2022
cat in an office chair

How can an activity as harmless as sitting be considered the “new smoking”? Sitting is not a bad thing in small doses, but too much can be detrimental to our health. According to a 2017 study, accumulation of 60 minutes or more of sedentary time is associated with greater risk of death. (Sedentary behaviors include sitting, reclining, and lying down.) So how often should we get up and move around? Getting up every 30 minutes has been shown to reduce your chances of cancer, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and back pain. Our chairs are out to kill us!

An evil chair

Does exercise negate extended periods of sedentary behavior?

No, unfortunately 60 to 90 minutes of intense physical activity cannot negate the effects of sitting for 8 to 12 hours per day. Studies also show that hours of sitting change our bodies metabolism. After just 30 minutes of sitting our metabolism slows down and the muscles in the lower body turn off. After 2 hours our good cholesterol drops. It seems exercise alone may not be enough to live a healthy lifestyle.

So what can we do to reduce sedentary behaviors?

  • Get an adjustable desk that can be adjusted to sitting and standing height. On average we burn 50 more calories when we stand. 
  • Set an alarm to remind yourself to get up and move every 30 minutes. Whether it be walking, stretching, or just standing. 
  • Change some sedentary activities for active ones.
  • If you are forced to sit for long periods incorporate some sitting exercises such as calf raises.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Park as far away as possible from the grocery store or mall. Either way it probably takes less time walking that extra 100 meters to the store than searching and fighting for the closest parking spot.

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