It is well known that there are health implications for leading a sedentary lifestyle. Sedentary behaviors include lying/sitting quietly (watching TV, listening to music), sitting at a desk, meditating, knitting, reading, sitting in a car, etc. These activities require little muscle movement and very few calories burned. This impacts negatively your body mass index, blood lipid levels, and glucose metabolism. Chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes are associated with sedentary behavior. Two trends found in the United States are that children and adults accumulate more than 7.5 hours per day of total sedentary time, AND total sedentary time increases as we age (Matthews 2008).
According to the ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine), the following are examples of sedentary, light, and moderate to vigorous physical activities:
- Sedentary: lying/sitting, meditating, knitting, sitting in a car or at a desk.
- Light: standing (cooking, laundry, ironing, cleaning), walking slowly, playing cards, darts, musical instrument, grocery shopping
- Moderate to vigorous: basketball, dancing, running, walking briskly
Doing light activities are better than doing sedentary behaviors. In fact, it has also been suggested to reduce prolonged sedentary behavior to no more than 60 minutes at a time and break it up with bouts of ANY intensity activity (Starkoff and Lenz, ACSM Health and Fitness Journal, 2015). So if you have a “desk” job, get up from your desk every 60 minutes and walk around the office and stretch! Stand when you can! Instead of emailing your colleague, walk over to give him/her a message! At home, get up after 60 minutes of sitting while at the computer or watching TV. Go for a short walk, or make an extra trip around your home. Housework can actually be a break from the sedentary behavior! Call these breaks “activity breaks.” Activity is a good thing. Being a “couch or desk potato” can be dangerous to your health!