Wednesday, September 05, 2012

How to Stay Healthy When You Sit All Day

Today's post is written by Joan Vernikos  the author of Sitting Kills, Moving Heals: How Everyday Movement Will Prevent Pain, Illness, and Early Death - and Exercise Alone Won't. I wrote about her book here.  This post provides additional information on how to stay healthy when you sit all day. 

Data continues to show that health in the US is deteriorating. Recent studies have supported my research at NASA that this can be attributed primarily to too much sitting.  As a busy working woman this might seem like a problem you don’t have - you are busy with your job, may manage a household and have children, try to find time to work out, and seemingly juggle responsibilities constantly.

But when you really look, how much of your time do you spend sitting? Between commuting and running errands in your car, sitting at a desk or in meetings, in front of a TV or a computer at home? Remaining fit and healthy becomes tricky. Long hours of sitting are shown to increase risk of breast and colon cancer, obesity and diabetes and poor balance even in children. Surprisingly, this is the case even in people who exercise daily. Sitting uninterrupted is just a killer. Fortunately, there are solutions.
My research at NASA was about keeping astronauts healthy, about what happens to the human body when we live without gravity or when we reduce its effect by lying down. What we found is that things happen to your body when you sit for long stretches that are very similar to the negative impacts of being in micro-gravity in space. Exercise was not necessarily the answer.  I found that it has more to do with how many times you get up during the day. You don’t need to stand all day either but rather to stand up often.  My research showed that if you must sit (and of course you do) it’s necessary to break it up, getting up at least 35 times a day. That works out to every 20 to 30 minutes. And when you are sitting, notice your posture and ensure that you sit up straight so that your body is working against gravity as it pulls you downward. I am amazed to see groups of women walking by – that’s good – with their head bent over looking at their feet – not so good. It’s a recipe to stoop as you age. There are many ways to use gravity during the day. Play, dance, garden, roll out dough, take the stairs, stretch, swim, have fun.

Astronauts age 10 times faster in space. Don’t be like them by sitting too much of your life.


  1. It's so easy to just sit in front of your computer all day :-(

  2. Rachel,
    It certainly is. It is easy too when we are really busy to keep working rather than take a break.