Depending on your lifestyle and how you spend your downtime, you may find yourself sitting or lying down more than you’re moving throughout the day.
While it’s normal to want to be comfortable and relax, a sedentary lifestyle can be harmful to your health.
“Sitting too much can lead to all kinds of health challenges, including increasing your risk of developing cancer,” says Karen Basen-Engquist, Ph.D., professor of Behavioral Science. “Even people who exercise regularly can face health issues if they spend most of their day sitting.”
Motivate yourself to get moving and meet your health goals with these three reasons to sit less.
1. Staying active can help prevent weight gain.
When your body is still, it doesn’t burn as many calories as it does when you’re moving. Burning calories is an essential part of maintaining a healthy weight. When we don’t burn calories, those can turn into fat. So, if you spend most of the day sitting, you’re missing out on opportunities to help your body burn calories.
Standing is definitely better for you than sitting, but simply standing at a desk won’t burn calories as efficiently as moving can. Moving your body will help you burn more calories.
After you eat, your blood glucose increases, especially if you’ve eaten a lot of carbohydrates. Those carbohydrates turn into sugar as your digestive system breaks them down, then that sugar enters your bloodstream.
“Light activity after a meal can help bring your blood glucose levels down more quickly than sitting,” Basen-Engquist says.
2. Frequent activity is part of a healthy lifestyle.
People who sit more tend to have more health problems, including obesity, which is linked to 13 types of cancer.
“Moving around throughout the day is one way to reduce your risk of obesity,” Basen-Engquist says.
Hit that goal by fitting in small breaks for activity throughout the day. For example, once an hour, take a walk around your house or go outside for a short walk. If you’re at home, consider doing chores around the house, or even standing up and stretching to help break up the day and keep your body healthy.
If you have a commute or long meetings that require you to sit, consider adding a few minutes of activity beforehand to counteract the long periods of sitting. “After a long day, the first thing you may want to do is relax on the couch,” Basen-Engquist says. “But try to get a bit of movement in to improve your overall health.”
In addition to moving around throughout the day, adults should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week and perform strength training exercises at least twice a week.
3. Moving your body helps increase your energy level.
People often sit more because they’re fatigued. But Basen-Engquist says the more active you are, the more energy you’ll have.
If your job or health don’t allow you to stand up or move around, try getting movement while you’re sitting. Raising your arms and lifting and lowering your knees can be good options.
“We’ve found that even patients with cancer that have extreme fatigue can overcome that by adding more activity to their days,” Basen-Engquist says.
She suggests starting small, with a two-minute activity break every hour throughout the day. “Then you could try adding more time as those sessions become easier,” Basen-Engquist says.