Take charge of your health. Sign up for HealthyWomen newsletters:

Healthy Living

By Sheryl Kraft

Share on:

Last weekend, I spent a lot of time sitting, unusual for me. Most weekends, I'm busy with what I call "flitting" – running around doing things like errands, cleaning, laundry, food shopping; catching up from the week. But instead, I spent a lot of time sitting in my car – a LOT. I paid a visit to my dad; a five-hour drive – each way. We headed out on Saturday morning, with a quick turnaround only to return back home the next day.

Besides suffering through the boredom of the long stretches of ugly highway, apparently another thing was suffering: my body. And it’s not just the normal aches and pains you might feel from so much sitting, either.

Think about it. We spend so much of our lives doing the same thing, over and over every day: sitting.

There’s been a lot of buzz about some new research that shows the longer people spend sitting, the more likely they are to die prematurely. (It shocked me to read how many hours the average American spends sitting – can you guess?*)

Doctors say sitting interferes with the way your body metabolizes certain fuels (like glucose and lipids). AND, this is regardless of fitness levels. So even if you work out in the morning - but sit at a desk all day - all your hard work will be erased, they say. That, by the way, doesn’t mean I'm going to give up exercising, just because it might be negated by all the sitting I do when I stay at my desk and write every day. As if I don't remind you enough, there are numerous physical – not to mention emotional – benefits of exercising.

You can help your body stay healthier and break down fat better by doing just one simple thing, and this thing is – you guessed it - sitting less and standing more.

I’m going to give more thought to sitting. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, are. They're experimenting with something they call an "active desk;" a desk attached to a treadmill. One gentleman who is testing it burns five hundred calories while he walks/works at his special desk five hours a day. Multiply that by five days a week and you can burn around 2,500 calories, which can add up to a weight loss of 37 pounds, researchers  report in Ivanhoe.com.

Short of building my own active desk (which wouldn't be such a bad idea, come to think of it), I'm going to make sure I move more. I'm happy that I’m fidgety by nature, and being fidgety usually causes me to move around a lot. But I have been known to lose total track of time and spend hours sitting glued to my chair when I get involved in a project. I'm going to remind myself to get up about once an hour and take a quick walk around. And rather than sit and eat lunch, now that spring is finally on its way, maybe some days I'll eat my lunch standing at the counter then go outside and take a walk. And I'm definitely planning to dig out my pedometer and start wearing it again, working hard to clock the recommended 10,000 steps a day. And my printer on the other side of my office?  I'm going to scrap my idea to re-organize my office so I can just reach over to grab the papers from my chair. I'm leaving it where it is.

This matters> You not only need to keep up with your formal exercise routine, but remember to bring everyday simple movements into your life.

So, readers, now it's your turn. Now that you know to nix the sitting, how are you planning on getting less sitting time?

*12 (!) hours. The average American spends that much time sitting.

You might also want to read:

Six affordable and effective exercise essentials

Finding time for fitness

Subscribe to Midlife Matters by Email