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Sitting Too Much: How Bad Is It?

Excess Sitting Has Been Linked to a Host of Health Problems. Here's How to Reduce Your Sitting Time.

Why doesn't physical activity seem to compensate?

Researchers are trying to figure out if sitting and exercise ''are two different components driving health," LaCroix says. "I am not at all certain this is true, but we are trying to figure it out."

Even though the idea is evolving, Kerr says it may help people to think about being active and sitting as two separate ways to improve or harm your health. "Does exercise compensate for a bad night's sleep?" she asks. "So why should exercise compensate for the fact that you sit all day?"

What's the take-home message from the research?

''Don't demonize sitting," LaCroix says. The message, she says, is to reduce sitting time by breaking it up. Although experts aren’t sure how often you need to get up, they suggest getting up about every 30 minutes if possible.

Kerr tells people to value some sitting time. "Sitting while you are socially engaged might be something that's very good for you," she says. Likewise, sitting for a few minutes to decompress after a stressful day could be good for you.

Think big picture, Kerr and LaCroix say, and stand when you can.

How can the average person reduce sitting time?

Kerr suggests:

  • Use a standing desk at work. More workplaces are warming to the idea, she says.
  • Give yourself reminders to sit less. At home, consider a TV commercial your signal to get out of your chair briefly. At work, use a smaller coffee cup or glass so your trips for refills will be more frequent.
  • Change social norms. Kerr suggests: At a meeting, you might explain, "I am going to take a standing break."

Once people sit less, Kerr finds, they often are open to the idea of moving more and to being more active.

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