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

Why You Might Not Want to Sit

By Sheryl Kraft

Created: 03/16/2010
Last Updated: 11/12/2018

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


This was fascinating! Thanks for sharing. Although I do walk outside as much as I can for exercise, computer work means I spend hours at my desk. I look forward to reading the suggestions of others here on how to change this situation.

Alexandra, Yes, that computer/desk time will get you!

This is important to know. I've considered that whole active desk idea but just don't know if it would work for me. I've also thought about one of those under the desk things you pedal. It's hard to fit all the pieces of a work life and a healthy life together!

I don't know about the under-desk pedaling device; I wonder if it would be a good idea. Although, you're still sitting, aren't you?

And if you have to sit then I guess it's best to stand up and stretch or move around (a lot) during the day. That's the nice part about working from home - but even in an office it's important to find the time.

This makes so much sense!! Whenever I sit for too long, I feel stiff and kinda tired. I always try to get up every hour or two and walk around the apartment or down to get the mail. Of course, I also get out for walk and exercise, but even just moving around the apartment helps energize me. Nice post!

Between working at a desk and watching TV, it isn't too surprising that people often sit that long. One of the things I enjoy about being a felter is that most of my work is standing and active.

Looks like I'll have to take up a hobby like felting that requires standing...wonder how many there actually are?

This is so informative - and a little scary! Thanks for sharing it. Being a freelance writer, I sit all the time. When I was still in the corporate world, at least I walked to my bus stop and to meetings. I'm going to have to find new ways to incorporate more activity into my day. Still, I'm not sure I can do some of my writing while standing as I get lost in thought. Could be dangerous!

i try to offset the hours of sitting with an hour or two of walking. plus, as anyone with a herniated disc will tell you, sitting is not a good thing. sometimes i lie on the floor wit the laptop and work in a sort of modified child's pose position to give my back a break.

Sounds like you're getting creative with ways work and not sit. Yes, sitting is the WORST thing you can do for a bad back. I can attest to that, too.

I know a writer whose husband built her an active desk using one of those ladder shelves from IKEA and a treadmill. I'm jealous. :)

Really? I wonder how she likes working this way? I need what she has (both the desk and the handy husband :)

Yikes! I had no idea about this. I am on my feet a lot, but I do sit quite a bit too. I hadn't heard this research (about the link between sitting/premature death), but that's compelling reason to get moving.

i read about this in the ny times. i sit a lot because of my work but for years i've wanted to set up a tread mill at my desk. maybe this new research is the incentive i need...


Add new comment