An ideal way to supplement the U.S. government's official Physical Activity Guidelines: Get off the couch.
Too much derriere time may increase the risk of chronic conditions such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and some cancers.
In other words, sitting may be hazardous to your health – even if you do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week.
In fact, researchers report in the new International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity that women who workout sit about nine hours a day — no less than their non-exercising peers.
Both groups need to reduce their glued-to-the-couch time. Northwestern University kinesiologist Lynette L. Craft, Ph.D., lead author of the study, talks with FamilyGoesStrong about how U.S. families can sit less. Excerpts:
So, is sitting the new smoking?
That's a good question. Smoking had an interesting history. It took a long time for people to recognize that there were public health concerns around smoking. Now that we're starting to see there are some negative health consequences associated with sitting, we need to say, "Hey, we need to reverse this trend."
What are the best ways to change behavior?
Keep a log. People often aren't aware of how much time we're spending seated. [They] work about eight hours a day. Then they forget that they eat dinner and sit in front of the TV for three more hours. [Think], "What are the opportunities for me to interrupt those times of sitting? Can I talk on the phone standing instead of seated? Can I go next door to my co-worker and ask them a question instead of sending an email?" At home, families tend to meet around the TV. Can we make a pact that we're all going to stand up during the commercial break?
How often do people need to get up?
We don't really know. Sure, the more the better, but we have to be realistic. We can't expect people during the workday to every two minutes stand up at their desks! One day at work, I set a timer at my computer that went off every 30 minutes. I stood up and sat back down. I didn't really interrupt what I was doing terribly. [The Heart Foundation in Australia recommends a few ways to reduce sitting time: fold clothes and iron while watching TV, stand to read the morning newspaper, and wash the car by hand rather than at a drive-through.]
Americans of all ages sit too much, right?
Children spend a lot of time sitting, playing on the computer, playing electronic video games. Sitting affects everyone. It's not just adults in the workplace.
Why is sitting so bad?
I don't think we have a clear idea of the exact mechanism for how sitting time negatively impacts health. We do know that when people spend extended time sitting, it really alters the way your body regulates insulin and glucose…If you think from an evolutionary perspective, we were designed and engineered to be upright, moving around, hunger-gatherer lifestyle.
What are you doing to sit less yourself?
If I'm having a conference call that I know is going to be an hour long, I'll try to take periods of it just to stand up. I love TV, I have to admit, but I do try to stand up and move around during commercials.
What else can families do?
Parents have control over family activities. As a family, can we challenge each other to stand up during every commercial? Will somebody be in charge of pointing it out?
For more stories about family activities, read: