01.06.17
Health & wellbeing

Tips for all ages to reduce sitting time

Man and child sat on sofa watching tv

Chronic inactivity is a pandemic sweeping the western world that researchers estimate causes the same amount of deaths every year as smoking – 5.3 million.  One in three adults worldwide fails to do the recommended 150 minutes of moderate aerobic physical activity per week and in the UK two out of three adults don't manage it. 

When you hear the words chronic activity, or sedentary behaviour, you might think that it doesn’t apply to you if you engage in regular physical activities. You go running in the morning, or hit the gym after work and you encourage your kids to play football after school, so how can you be classed as sedentary? Unfortunately, sedentary behaviour equates to sitting for more than 7 hours a day, which means most people are classed as having a sedentary lifestyle. 

Are we sitting too much?

Studies have linked excessive sitting with being overweight and obese, type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer, and early death. Sitting for long periods is thought to slow the metabolism, which affects the body's ability to regulate blood sugar, blood pressure and break down body fat. 

Office employees sit down at their desks for more than 7 hours a day, while children are seated in classrooms for long periods with little time for PE lessons and activity breaks. Once we are home, we often spend the evenings sitting in front of a screen for hours on end. How do we break this endless cycle? 

This video demonstrates some of the dangers of sitting for too long.

Tips to reduce sitting time

By being more conscious about how much time we spend being sedentary, we can reduce excessive sitting and improve our health and wellbeing. Here are some suggestions to reduce sitting time for people of all ages. 

Under 5’s

In children under five, the advice is to limit the time they spend watching TV, travelling by car, bus or train, or being strapped into a buggy.

  • Reduce time spent in infant carriers, car seats or highchairs
  • Reduce time spent in walking aids or baby bouncers 
  • Reduce time spent in front of the TV or other screens  
  • Encourage crawling and walking in safe places. 

Children and young people

Research suggests that children and young people in households with multiple TVs and computers tend to sit more. For children aged 5 to 18 years, reducing sitting time includes anything that involves moving in and around the home, classroom or community.

  • Consider ways for children to "earn" screen time
  • Agree a family limit to screen time per day
  • Make bedrooms a TV- and computer-free zone
  • Set "no screen time" rules to encourage kids to be active
  • Encourage participation in house chores such as setting the table or taking the bins out 
  • Choose gifts such as a scooter, skateboard, ball or kite to encourage active play
  • Encourage kids to take up a sport or physical activity
  • Take children to parks and on walks
  • Parents could lead by example by also reducing their TV time and other sitting-based tasks.

Adults

Adults aged 19 to 64 are advised to try to sit down less throughout the day, including at work, when travelling and at home.

  • Stand on the train or bus
  • Take the stairs and walk up escalators
  • Set a reminder to get up every 30 minutes and take an active break
  • Place a laptop on a box to work standing
  • Stand or walk around while on the phone
  • Take a walk break every time you take a coffee or tea break
  • Walk to a co-worker's desk instead of emailing or calling
  • Swap some TV time for more active tasks or hobbies

Older adults

Some older adults (aged 65 and over) are known to spend 10 hours or more each day sitting or lying down, making them the most sedentary population group.

  • Avoid long periods sat in front of a TV or computer
  • Stand up and move during TV advert breaks
  • Stand or walk while on the phone
  • Use the stairs as much as possible
  • Take up active hobbies such as gardening and DIY 
  • Join in community-based activities, such as dance classes and walking groups
  • Take up active play with the grandchildren
  • Do most types of housework
  • Walk to the shops 

As you can see, you can easily reduce excessive sitting time by making small changes to your day. 

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