In a world of misinformation, Fitness Pudding is here to separate fact from fallacy, and science from fiction.

Are You "Sedentary"?

Are You "Sedentary"?

This morning, I waved to my little girl, as my wife drove away to drop her off at her first day of school. When they were out of waving distance, I said a quick prayer, and grabbed another cup of coffee before sitting down at the computer to get through all I needed to do today - mostly writing at the computer.

As nerdy as it sounds, there was some excitement thinking about the free hours I had to sit and work. Like many of you, our jobs require us to sit on our behinds most of the day to actually be productive.

Interestingly, I saw an article early this morning entitled, "Sedentary Behavior and Cardiovascular Morbidity and Mortality".

It is a scientific advisory review article by the American Heart Association, with the goal of sharing what we need to know about the relationship of being "sedentary" with disease (morbidity) and premature death (mortality).

The following figure is the estimated daily time spent in different contexts of energy expenditure among adults in the U.S.

estimatedEE fitness pudding


GREEN: The authors confirm the substantial evidence that supports the benefits of at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day.

RED: The "sedentary" piece of the pie. Adults have an average of 7.7 hours of sedentary, inactive time per day (6-8 hours/day), which has emerging scientific evidence on its contribution to cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Are You Sedentary?

"Sedentary behavior refers to any waking behavior characterized by an energy expenditure ≤ 1.5 metabolic equivalents [METs] while in a sitting or reclining posture."

Sitting quietly is 1 MET, and moderate intensity physical activity begins at 3 METs.

Other examples of activities ≤ 1.5 METs are in the following table.






TV viewing: sitting, reclining Computer work Driving or riding in a vehicle Playing an instrument
Talking on the phone Sitting   Arts and crafts
Listening to music Writing, reading   Knitting/sewing
Eating Talking on the phone   Playing cards or board games
Bathing Sitting in class   Playing video games: sitting
Reading Typing   Viewing sports event


Think about your entire day - before, during, and after work. Are you getting 6+ hours per day of such activities?

Take a moment to add up your total hours of sitting or reclining each day.

With a to-do list like I have right now, it would be so easy for me to get 6-8 hours of sitting during work, then more while relaxing in the afternoon with the family. If you commute to and from work, that only adds to the sitting time.

Are You At Risk?

The advisory board concludes, "prospective evidence is accumulating that sedentary behavior could be a risk factor for CVD [cardiovascular disease] and diabetes mellitus morbidity and mortality, and for all-cause mortality [premature death from all causes]."

Well, now, I am not so excited about sitting on my behind all day to get through my to-do list.

The experts are suggesting that sitting time could be a risk factor for disease and premature death - even if you exercise.

In other words, it is possible that even if you get a 30-minute workout at lunch, but still sit 6-8 hours the rest of the day, your risk is still higher than if you did not sit as much.

What Can We Do?

The goal, then, is to reduce the amount that we sit = Sit Less, Move More.

If you currently sit 11 hours a day, then get that down to 10 or 9 hours per day. If you are sitting 8 hours a day, then try to get down to 7 hours a day. See the trend?

Here are some tips:

  1. Take a 6-minute break every 60 minutes. Stand up, stretch, and walk around (not to snack machine).
  2. Use apps on your smartphone to interrupt sedentary time. There are tons for you to choose from, to meet your preferences (e.g. Stand App).
  3. Get a standing desk or a treadmill desk. Studies show that using these workstations do not hinder your brain's abilities or work performance. The key is to ease into their use.
  4. Replace your sitting time in the afternoons with other, non-sedentary activities. Take a family walk, knock off some items from your home to-do list, go to the park, or tidy up around the house.

The Take Home Message?

Quit reading, and get up off your behind!


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