Research has confirmed that sitting too long is not good for your health. New and surprising? No. Helpful? Yes. The pattern and results of sedentary behaviour from this study illustrate that sitting for a period longer than 30 minutes at a time is highly associated with a greater risk of chronic disease and earlier death. So what’s this mean to our everyday lives? For every 30 minutes of sitting, you should be getting up and moving for at least 1-5 minutes before sitting for 30 minutes or more again. 


Over the recent years, media has coined the phrase “sitting is the new smoking” to help describe the current epidemic of sedentary lifestyles in developed nations. As such, more research is being placed on what needs to be done in order to offset or even reverse the negative implications of being mostly inactive. When it comes to making health focused recommendations, it’s one thing to say “move more” or “increase your exercise and activity”, yet quite another to figure out how to actually do it. As well, research also proves that a single moderate to high intensity bout of exercise per day does not fully offset being sedentary for the other hours of inactivity. The most effective approach at this time states that regular sporadic activity that effectively interrupts extended sedentary behaviour is actually more beneficial to health and healthy longevity than simply sitting all day and exercising before or after.


Most adults spend most of their day at rest. The quoted study from the Annals of Internal Medicine (2017) states that of a 16 hour waking day, on average, more than 12 hours are spent sedentary amongst most adults. Firstly, this is a scary statistic; it makes most realize that we all spend more time at rest than we would likely otherwise presume. Secondly, with such an accurate statistic, it begs the question, if work schedules, habits and commitments aren’t likely going to change, how can we realistically intervene to offset and improve the chances that we will all age more healthfully while living longer? 


Because sitting too long has been directly linked to a higher incidence of cardiovascular disease, cardiovascular related illnesses, other chronic diseases and mortality, I think it’s pretty important to those who want to live healthier to figure out a way to lessen this risk. When the results of this study were collected, it was determined that those who sat more, and for longer periods of uninterrupted time, died sooner and with increased health complications versus those who didn’t. 


So what’s the answer here? The results of this 2017 leading study concluded that for every 30 minutes of sitting, you should get up and move (for 1-5 minutes at bare minimum) before sitting again for a subsequent 30 minutes. Most adults are sedentary for 8-9 hours per day (ie at work), with many spending much more time than that at rest. Although there’s no exact number for taking breaks from sitting, those who sit continually for 60-90 minutes or more have a much higher all cause mortality rate than those who sit for less than 30 minutes. 


The takeaway here? Getting up at least every half an hour and walking or doing something physical for a few minutes throughout the day is essential to your health. Walking around your office, doing a quick stretch or taking a few minutes outdoors all fit the bill. Not only hugely beneficial to your health, but putting this practice into daily play is a simple approach toward your journey to better health.

Dr Jeremy Hayman, ND helps patients at Cornerstone Naturopathic Inc. feel better, live better, and achieve optimal wellness and health. Years of patient care coupled with dedication to personal life balance has helped Dr Jeremy employ the adage that “your approach to health should be simple”.