How Much Sitting is Too Much?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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 can’t 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 doesn’t have to be high intensity activity, like formal exercise—simply getting up and walking around the office or the house for 5 minutes every hour can really help.

I don’t know about you, but I’m 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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DIVAGLOW 3/6/2021
This is some great information, thanks! Report
LIS193 12/11/2020
Great information Report
KATHYJO56 8/25/2020
Great article-I have always wondered about this Report
CECELW 7/26/2020
I walk 4-5 miles a day Report
I do a lot of sitting & reclining. Guess I'll have to get up off my lazy butt more often even if just to walk down the hall & back. Report
I do tend to keek on the move most of the day, I watch the TV but get up when the advert comes on. Report
I do some walking every day. I walk up and down my steps(I live on the 2nd floor) and through my house every day. Report
This was a great reminder for me to get up and walk around. Thank you! Report
Adding standing desk work (again-had it several years ago) but in this political climate, as a self-employed person, I have had much more (sitting) attention on the *hitstorm (*hithouse/*hithole, being the *hitGibbonInChief's new fav word)...Anyway, less "executive time" (sitting) for me! Report
Guess that hourly Fitbit reminder to grab 250 steps an hour by default really could save some lives ... Or at least mine. And some science to backup what call centers and other places do that leads to sick workers for sure. Report
Great article. I tend to sit for hours in front of my computer. Now, I know to get up and move every hour. Thanks! Report
My job requires sitting in front of a computer most of the day. But I try to make it a point to get up and away from my desk at least few minutes every hour. Report
I'm at a desk all day and there isn't anywhere around us to take a walk. About a year ago I had my pedometer on and realized that between waking and getting home from work, about 6pm, I was moving about 1 mile. That was an eye opener. It's hard to get up every hour with all the deadlines, stress, etc, but I use a smaller cup for water now so I have to walk more frequently to the kitchen. I also use our copy room for sorting, etc where I can stand for a period of time. I stretch some and I can do a few moves in the bathroom, but at lunch I try to move even if it's going to a big box store and wandering, or a smaller strip store for a faster walk, and now that Spring is in, the plants will be coming so it's also nice to wander the nurseries. Add a quick 10 power walk before work and right after work, really makes a difference. Report
I have a sit down job and I make it a point to get up and walk around the building every hour. It's not a long walk and only takes a few minutes but it seems to energize me and my back feels better. Report
SMILES4100, as to your question about seated workouts, the dangers the studies talk about look at two factors: 1. Are you sitting or reclining AND 2. Are you moving very little (1-1.5 METS to be technical). What all this jargon means is that you have to be sitting AND not moving to accumulate the risks they are talking about. So if you are sitting and working out, you are good! Report
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... Report
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! Report
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! Report
I sit in spinning class, so that's actually bad for my metabolism and health... Report
I know that prolonged sitting causes me to have indigestion, but here's another good reason to get up more often. Thanks! Report
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! Report
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! Report
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. Report
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!) Report
Move your legs when u have to be sitting. Report
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.... Report
WOW! And I sit at a desk infron ot 2 computor screens! Report
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. :)
Great information. I get up ever so often just to move around. Report
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.
Thank you for the information. From now on, I will take mini breaks to walk around and stretch. Report
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'! Report
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! Report
Wow im trying to find out how to bookmark this, very very inyeresting.thank u Report
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! Report
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. Report
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. Report
Excellent and eye opening Coach Dean - and so good to have you back! Report
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) Report
This was an eye opener. I did not realize that one should get up every hour to walk around or stretch. Report
I try to take a 15 minute walk outside in the am & pm and at lunch time do some walking around etc. Report
Thanks for the info! I'm going to be very conscious of my "siting" time (especially in front of the computer!) from now on! Report
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! Report
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! Report
I am getting up now! I am going to put on some music and dance! Report
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. Report
wow this was really interesting - as a student i've wondered about this while sitting and studying for hours Report