It’s becoming increasingly common for individuals to spend long periods of time sitting; whether it be at a desk, in front of a screen, or in a comfortable chair. While some sitting activities, such as reading or engaging in craft work, can offer cognitive benefits, rest and relaxation, and social connections, it’s becoming more evident that excessive sedentary behaviour can have negative effects on both physical and mental health.
It’s no secret that sitting for long periods of time can be detrimental to your health. Research has found that excessive sitting or prolonged bouts of inactivity increase the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and frailty. It’s become easier than ever before to spend more time sitting due to the widespread availability of cheap office chairs and other seating options. And sitting has become “easier” because you can literally buy an office chair for less than $100 or less (here are some examples).
But recent studies have revealed just how much these periods of inactivity can harm your health. Those who sit for multiple hours a day are at an increased risk for chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, and depression. The good news is that simply standing or moving around can provide many positive effects on overall health and well-being.
If you spend most of your day sitting down, it’s important to start thinking about ways to get more active! Making simple changes like taking regular breaks from sitting throughout the day or switching up your seating every now and then can go a long way towards improving your overall health. So don’t let long periods of sitting take their toll – take action today and make positive changes for a healthier you.
Despite the well-known health benefits of physical activity, guidelines for physical activity often focus on the need to be active and neglect the importance of reducing sedentary time. For example, the UK’s Physical Activity Guidelines for Health (PAGH) recommend that individuals aim to be active daily, engage in moderate-intensity exercise for 150 minutes a week, and do strength work twice a week while minimising the amount of time spent sitting.
While being active is important, it can be challenging for older adults or those with physical limitations to maintain an active lifestyle. A study that aimed to help frail older adults reduce their sedentary time found that these individuals benefited from a tailored program that allowed them to set personal goals for reducing their sitting time. The participants were equipped with inclinometers to track their sitting behaviour, and the results showed that they experienced improved physical function, including the ability to rise from a chair and move more easily.
But simply reducing sedentary time is not enough. In order to help older adults and others with physical limitations, it’s important to take a more comprehensive approach that addresses the social, cultural, and environmental factors that contribute to inactivity and sedentary behaviour. For instance, older adults who reside in rehabilitation wards often spend 85%–95% of their day in a sedentary posture, compared to 60%–80% of those who live in the community. This can lead to rapid deconditioning, reduced strength and physical fitness, and increased likelihood of complications.
To address these issues, the #EndPJParalysis campaign was launched to reduce sedentary time and prevent deconditioning in hospital environments. The project encourages patients to “Get Up, Get Dressed, and Get Moving” and prioritises patient choice and dignity, allowing patients to take ownership of their own physical activity during their hospital stay. The project has had a global impact and aims to change the culture of hospital care to reduce sedentary time and prevent functional decline.
While sitting can offer cognitive and social benefits, excessive sedentary behaviour can have negative effects on physical and mental health. Therefore, it’s important to focus not only on increasing physical activity but also on reducing sedentary time. This can be achieved through personalized programs, addressing social, cultural, and environmental factors, and initiatives like the #EndPJParalysis campaign.
It’s time to get up, get moving, and start making a difference. Whether it’s setting aside more time for daily exercise, walking or biking instead of driving, or even something as simple as standing up for a few minutes every hour; it all adds up. Every step taken contributes to better physical health both on an individual level and for our community at large. So join the movement and challenge yourself to think about sitting less and moving more today.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.