The SparkPeople Blog

How Much Sitting is Too Much?

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
1/21/2010 6:36 PM   :  180 comments   :  25,330 Views

Several studies in recent years have established that there is a strong connection between how much time you spend sitting and your risk of significant health problems (especially obesity and diabetes) and even premature death. Coach Nancy recently blogged about some of this research here.

A new study reported this week indicates that even as little as a few hours of continuous sitting causes metabolic changes that increase blood sugar levels and decrease the amount of fat used as fuel, therefore increasing the amount that goes back into storage as body fat.

It's important to understand that the issue here is not just that you burn fewer calories when you're sitting around. Long periods of sitting actually cause unhealthy changes in your metabolism.

These studies are showing that extended sitting actually changes the way your body processes glucose and fat. When you are actively moving around, fat circulating in your blood stream will migrate towards active muscles to be taken in and used as fuel. But this study shows that when you are sitting still, the enzyme responsible for taking fat out of the bloodstream and into muscle cells is deactivated, and that circulating fat is instead picked up and stored by fat cells. Researchers injected small amounts of fat into animals that were sitting, and found that it didn't stay in the blood vessels that pass through the muscles. Instead, it was picked up by the fat cells found around internal organs.

Several hours of inactivity reduce the activity of the enzyme lipoprotein lipase, which is responsible for breaking down fat for use as fuel by muscle cells. Researchers did muscle biopsies of sedentary people and found that lipoprotean lipase was suppressed to 10% of normal levels, resulting in fat retention, lower levels of good cholesterol, and a slower metabolic rate.

This study also indicates that even substantial amounts of formal cardio exercise may not be enough to counteract or overcome these negative effects of sitting for long periods of time. Apparently, you canít make up for sitting for hours at a time simply by making sure you get your 30-60 minutes of exercise every day.

But the good news is that short bouts of physical activity, spread through the day so that they interrupt your sitting time, can help reduce the negative effects of too much sitting. It doesnít have to be high intensity activity, like formal exerciseósimply getting up and walking around the office or the house for 5 minutes every hour can really help.

I donít know about you, but Iím definitely going to get myself up out of my chair every hour, and do some walking around the house or, better yet, around the block.

How about you? Is it easy for you to get up and do some moving around every hour, or is it a struggle? Got any ideas on how you can squeeze in some physical activity to break up your chair time?

Do you think workplaces, schools and other similar organizations ought to allow and encourage people to get up and move around every hour?

If you're looking for ideas of things you can do during short breaks, be sure to check out some of Coach Nicole's videos in the Fitness Resource Center.
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Comments

  • 180
    Question: what impact does a seated workout have? It's still physical activity, but it's seated... So which category does that fit into? From what I understand, as long as a person is moving, it's okay... but I'm not a scientist... - 4/7/2014   9:39:11 AM
  • 179
    That is pretty scary and certainly goes some way to explain my own weight problems (a love for chocolate, maccaroni&cheese and other tasty temptations may factor into it, too... ;) ). I'm really glad to have read about it (and thanks for the links and the biochemical background!) because it'll make me take care to either do some short cardio sessions or simply walk on the treadmill while browsing the internet. Thanks! - 11/6/2013   5:34:15 PM
  • 178
    I have bad disc degeneration disease and have to sit often. Exercise helps a lot but I can't do it 24/7 on top of house hold chores and a 4yr old and 14yr old and a husband that travels for work.
    I have changed my couch potato ways though. However I am sitting here writing this! I have an excuse though. I have the flu. lol

    If anyone wants to visit my page I'd love your feedback and if you think I'm a motivator by reading my blog Ups and Downs Literally.
    I hope to meet more of you there! - 9/30/2011   6:39:46 PM
  • SVENJAH
    177
    I sit in spinning class, so that's actually bad for my metabolism and health... - 10/28/2010   4:13:12 PM
  • 176
    I know that prolonged sitting causes me to have indigestion, but here's another good reason to get up more often. Thanks! - 6/6/2010   1:01:45 AM
  • 175
    well this is scary! I find myself sitting for most of the day.. Now I will definitely make sure to get up and do something, anything, once an hour! - 5/20/2010   9:42:00 AM
  • 174
    This is so very helpful. Thank God we can use 5 mins and to think just yesterday I sat for hours in the library proof reading some work and actually missed my workout. This has changed my mindset. Also this is a message for long distance drivers. Maybe we should pull over during heavy traffic and walk or just leave earlier so you won't be in the slow moving traffic. Thank you Dean for educating us to get the best out of everyday during this new lifestyle. Blessings! - 5/12/2010   1:57:30 AM
  • C-MERRIE11
    173
    omg! I knew I was sitting too much as a student, and so this year I would walk around the library after an hour of reading (like all the way around, to the top, down the hall, and back down the other se t of stairs), but I had no idea how important of a change I made! I am going to be extra intentional to get around. I was doing it in part for my brain and backs sake but I think have much more reason now. - 5/9/2010   10:39:53 AM
  • 172
    I have to sit at work and in class, but when i am in my room doing homework (usually just reading), I stand, wiggle, move in any way at all just because sitting too long makes me stiff and lethargic (and drowsy!) - 2/27/2010   11:58:00 PM
  • 171
    Move your legs when u have to be sitting. - 2/10/2010   12:10:16 AM
  • 170
    Too much sitting is not good for you...I am a teacher assistant and I am always on my feet. I like to keep my circulation going and I am a little hyper.... - 2/6/2010   6:18:43 PM
  • 169
    WOW! And I sit at a desk infron ot 2 computor screens! - 2/5/2010   2:07:48 PM
  • 168
    I am a teacher and so not only am I moving in my classroom I end up walking a lot in the building. Being at the bottom of a long hall makes for a good walk. :) I also have decided to park the farthest away from the door of our building to get an extra bit of exercise in when I come and go. :)

    I work in NC and the state mandated a few years ago that our students need to do more movement through out the day. Due to this, every other day I take one of my classes walking for 30 minutes. We tend to walk our school track but when we have bad weather we head to the gym. All the teachers have come to enjoy this time as well as our students. :)
    - 2/2/2010   9:42:52 AM
  • ITCANBEDUN
    167
    Great information. I get up ever so often just to move around. - 2/1/2010   6:04:35 PM
  • 166
    About the only time I sit for more than 90 minutes without getting up is in a movie, or on an airplane. Usually I don't even have to make an effort to "remember" to get up and move around, my body sends me plenty of signals. I consider one of the chief benefits of drinking water is that it prompts me to get up and go the bathroom.
    - 1/28/2010   3:50:04 PM
  • VURGO129
    165
    Thank you for the information. From now on, I will take mini breaks to walk around and stretch. - 1/27/2010   7:30:12 PM
  • 164
    No more sitting through page after page of Spark People blogs and articles! It makes sense and now I have no excuse. Gotta get movin'! - 1/27/2010   12:41:35 PM
  • 163
    good article. I sit on my butt for 8+ hours at work each day.. I will be making more of an effort to get up and walk around now!! I knew all that sitting wasn't good in the first place...not to mention BORING! - 1/27/2010   12:00:45 AM
  • 162
    Wow im trying to find out how to bookmark this, very very inyeresting.thank u - 1/26/2010   11:17:32 PM
  • 161
    My job....I sit at a desk, for 11 1/2 hrs waiting to open a gate to get parts out for the mechanics. Yep....maybe 5 times a night I get to get off my booty and walk 3 steps to the gate, 7 steps to the parts and back again. So...not realizing it was hurting me to sit...when no one is looking...I'm gonna boogie. One thing we have is MUSIC. If I get caught...I'll just say I saw a mouse! LOL Thanks for the insight! - 1/26/2010   10:53:51 PM
  • 160
    Thanks for the insight. I'd never really considered the impact of my sitting for long stretches of time. Guess now I'll just have to remind myself to get up and move around more often. - 1/26/2010   9:56:51 AM
  • MIARA_
    159
    Huh. I wonder if that's why I've managed to avoid full on winter funk this year: I started getting up and walking around the building every couple of hours just to get some exercise in. Now I have another reason to keep it out. - 1/26/2010   6:15:28 AM
  • 158
    Excellent and eye opening Coach Dean - and so good to have you back! - 1/25/2010   9:32:53 PM
  • JSIMMON1
    157
    I wonder if fidgeting helps - I too have a job that keeps me at my desk a lot of the day. I usually make it a habit to get up and talk to people rather than e-mail but I'm going to try to develop the habit of tapping my foot (although I'm not sure if this is a habit that can be developed or if it's a trait that goes along with high energy or nervous personalities) - 1/25/2010   10:30:27 AM
  • MBRENNAN4
    156
    This was an eye opener. I did not realize that one should get up every hour to walk around or stretch. - 1/25/2010   9:23:52 AM
  • 155
    I try to take a 15 minute walk outside in the am & pm and at lunch time do some walking around etc. - 1/25/2010   1:18:14 AM
  • SPARKEE
    154
    Thanks for the info! I'm going to be very conscious of my "siting" time (especially in front of the computer!) from now on! - 1/25/2010   12:09:02 AM
  • ANTICIPATING10
    153
    Working as a homecare nurse, I spend a lot of time sitting in my car and charting. I'm going to try and take a couple of mini walks throughout my workday and discover some new parks and sightings around the County! - 1/24/2010   10:12:42 PM
  • 152
    I did everything I was not supposed to do according to this article today. First it was watching the COLTS dominate the AFC, and now its watching the Vikings & Saints. Tomorrow is a new day...I will start moving every hour from my work desk. GO COLTS! - 1/24/2010   10:01:33 PM
  • 151
    I am getting up now! I am going to put on some music and dance! - 1/24/2010   7:38:10 PM
  • 150
    I'm really glad I read this. Good to know - I will take a few minutes each hour to stand up and walk around. Work is not that important over my health - plus work is never done, so might as well take a sanity break for myself and my health. - 1/24/2010   6:41:54 PM
  • COLORMI2
    149
    wow this was really interesting - as a student i've wondered about this while sitting and studying for hours - 1/24/2010   5:27:37 PM
  • 148
    I agree with this and think it must have some validity. My grandmother and great aunt are 86 and 93 respectively and you would never even know it- they are both very active, constantly doing work around the house, walking around, doing everything. They have their wits and are sharp as ever- very in shape and completely mobile. They attribute the fact that they have lived so long and probably will for several more years to the fact that they are always doing something- not ever sitting around. I notice myself that the more I do in terms of exercising consistently, and in general, the more my schedule is packed, the more i accomplish and the more energized i feel. it really is phenomenal. i am going to think of this article a lot in the coming days i'm sure and it will help me increase my daily activity. - 1/24/2010   4:24:33 PM
  • 147
    suffering years of depression and being tired all the time because an under active thyroid - i didn't know i was causing a lot of harm to my body. it all makes sense. i'm going to make sure i get up and move every hour. - 1/24/2010   4:08:26 PM
  • 146
    I sit for hours at work but now I am going to make it a habit of getting up and stretching and moving every hour. I'm also going to make some adjustments at home too. You can be on the computer for hours and not realize it. Right now I am watching the Jets and Colts play but will get up and get a snack. GO JETS!!! - 1/24/2010   4:02:15 PM
  • 145
    Thanks for the interesting information. I pledge to move every hour. At least today. hopefully, all of my tomorrows! - 1/24/2010   3:08:08 PM
  • 144
    I'm so glad I've been doing strength exercises at work! I have a very sedentary job, so I sneak into an empty room every hour or so and do some push-ups, crunches, lunges, squats, etc. I've been doing this for about a week now (in addition to working out after work) and I can already see a difference in my energy levels! This job is probably why I've gained so much weight in the last few years. - 1/24/2010   2:49:58 PM
  • BOTECCHIA
    143
    Well so much for my favorite past time - which is a two hour feature film!!! Well I'll just have to get up in the middle of the show. lol well this was great to learn. I'm going to be very mindful of this fact this week and make sure I'm not sitting for more that an hour at a time! - 1/24/2010   1:02:23 PM
  • 142
    I worked in an office for many years where it was considered wasting time if you didn't have a direct reason to get up out of your chair. I am thankful that I'm not there anymore. I am going to share this info with all of the gamers that I know (my husband, children, etc.). - 1/24/2010   11:56:33 AM
  • 141
    Happily, I work in an office where I can get up and walk to confer with colleagues or take mail to the boxes. I make a point of taking mail to the box in small groups, so that I make several trips over the day. Drinking 8 glasses of water also ensures lots of walking! I've started using the bathrooms on the other side of the building to get in some walking. I also have a yoga-for-the-office book, and stretch during breaks. - 1/24/2010   10:36:38 AM
  • 140
    Wow! This is an eye opener - I had always figured my 30-60 minutes of cardio sort of made up for my desk job. I am going to set the alarm on my computer to go of every hour and get up out of my chair!! Like water - evidently movement is something you have to spread out all day long. THANKS! - 1/24/2010   9:33:27 AM
  • 139
    As an educator, I realize how much we "train" kids to sit still until some bell rings, door opens or school ends. This article makes me ask myself how I can subtly be sending a different message about movement and healthy living every day at my school. - 1/24/2010   9:22:59 AM
  • MCKM57
    138
    great rticle - 1/24/2010   8:28:32 AM
  • NORTHERNFIRE
    137
    This is pretty incredible to consider. I happen to live in Finland where the kids have 15 minutes recess every hour (usually outside if the weather is not below minus15 degrees C, I think). It doesn't seem to interfere with their education, so could it be that we are deluded in thinking that it's more efficient not to take a break. - 1/24/2010   6:02:41 AM
  • THEMANSLAYER
    136
    What about standing too much? What does standing for eight hours do to you? - 1/24/2010   12:37:52 AM
  • JOY_IS_LOSING
    135
    Not only is it good for your health to get up and move about every hour, it's good for clearing your mind and helping you focus more when you return to your task - more oxygen to the brain. - 1/23/2010   11:33:08 PM
  • 134
    i'm blessed, i guess--I'm so fidgity, I can't stand sitting in my chair for too long, so i'll often get up and walk around, or go get some coffee, just something to move!! - 1/23/2010   9:08:28 PM
  • 133
    Very informative and will motivate me even more to get up and move around. Thanks. Gigi - 1/23/2010   7:54:59 PM
  • 132
    I need to work on my screentime, and frankly, Sparkpeople is my greatest temptation. I think I need to get a timer and set it to stop me after 30 minutes whenever I go online. - 1/23/2010   4:46:05 PM
  • 131
    I work in a call center where I am literally in my chair on the phone. I noticed my middle area has increased. This article was extremely informative to me. I will try marching in place at my desk. I sit for sometimes 2 to 3 hours without a break. - 1/23/2010   12:46:29 PM

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