In addition to thinking about how to move more throughout the day, it’s also important that we work on sitting less when possible. Researchers agree that taking action to decrease levels of sedentary behaviour throughout the day can have important health benefits -- especially for those who are not physically active, as it helps to prevent many chronic diseases and even some cancers.
THERE’S A LOT OF SITTING THESE DAYS!
Sedentary behaviour means any non-sleep activity with little movement while sitting or lying down. This might include time spent driving in a car, sitting on a bus, watching television, playing video games, using a tablet device, or even sitting still reading a book.
how much sitting is TOO MUCH?
Researchers haven’t yet been able to pinpoint exactly how much sitting is too much sitting, but agree there is a need to try to limit sedentary time when possible. New research from a Canadian study suggests that being sedentary for even 3 hours per day during leisure time may be enough to increase a person’s risk of developing some cancers.1 The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology has developed guidelines for reducing sedentary behaviour among Canadian youth and children, but no guidelines are available yet for adults.
All sitting is bad for me.
Some sedentary behaviour is part of a healthy lifestyle. It’s important to balance periods of sleep, sedentary behaviour, and physical activity over the entire 24-hour day; with the goal to try to sit less and move more.
Reducing sedentary behaviour means giving up the activities that I enjoy.
There are little things that everyone can do to reduce sedentary behavior. For example, try breaking up periods of sitting while watching TV by getting up to stretch or do a bit of housework during commercials or between episodes. Remember - no action is too small and every little bit can make a difference!
Physical inactivity and sedentary behaviour mean the same thing.
Physical inactivity means not meeting physical activity guidelines, while sedentary behaviour refers to periods of time where a person is awake, but remains relatively motionless while sitting or lying down. It is possible for someone to get enough physical activity, but still engage in too much sedentary behavior at other times of the day. For example, a person may ride their bike to work, exercise over their lunch break, and walk their dog in the evening, but still engage in too much sedentary behavior if they sit at a desk all day at work and lay on the couch watching TV for several hours at night.
HOW CAN I SIT LESS?
Are you thinking it may be a good idea to try sitting a bit less? By shifting some of the time spent sitting to even light physical activity, you’re using your body to do more of what it was designed to do – move! Although we don’t have guidelines available yet to tell us how much sitting is ‘too much’, researchers do agree that we all have room for improvement and even small reductions in time spent engaged in sedentary behaviour can significantly benefit our health!
There are lots of little changes you can make to sit less:
- Try to break-up long periods of sitting by setting an alarm or reminder to stand up and move around at least 1 to 2 times per hour. Alternatively, try standing up for activities that you normally do while seated, such as using a computer or talking on the phone.
- At work, encourage your colleagues to stand up or go for a walk during meetings.
- For short trips, consider biking or walking instead of driving. When driving, try parking further away from the entrance, or consider getting off one stop early when taking public transit.
- Reduce stationary TV time by incorporating other activities, such as folding laundry or housework into your viewing time.
- Set screen time limits for computer and tablet use – make it a family challenge and spend that time doing something else, together!
- If you’re a gamer, try video games that get you standing and moving around.
- It’s easy to lose track of time during sedentary activities, so try keeping a journal for a few days or use the monitoring tools available on many electronic devices. Once you know where you’re at, set an attainable goal to reduce how much time you spend engaged in sedentary behaviour each day.
IF I’M PHYSICALLY ACTIVE DURING THE DAY, DO I NEED TO WORRY ABOUT HOW MUCH I SIT AT OTHER TIMES?
Yes! Being sedentary, including long periods of time sitting or lying down while awake, is a unique activity that can impact your health. While it may be possible to off-set some of the harmful effects of too much sedentary behaviour with high levels of physical activity at other times of the day, most of us aren’t physically active enough every day to meet this threshold. When possible, you should try to break up extended periods of sedentary behaviour with at least light physical activity. What does that mean? It means that trying to sit less is important – just like moving more is!
Lower the risks of sedentary behaviour by reducing your sitting. Enjoy the benefits of physical activity by becoming more active. Both behaviours need your attention, so try to sit less and move more.