What are Sitting Guidelines and Why Do We Need Them?


DOES THIS SOUND LIKE your typical day? Eating breakfast sitting at the table, driving to work sitting in your car, sitting at your computer most of the workday, driving home, eating dinner and then watching television until you go to bed. If you answered yes, then you can join the “sitters club”. Being a member of this popular club may not be the membership you were looking for.

It’s no surprise that we spend a large portion of our day being sedentary. In fact, we typically spend about nine hours a day in sedentary activities. Think of it this way: We spend more time sitting than we do sleeping, crazy right? And screen-based activities such as watching television, playing video games and surfing the Internet are the main culprits of our sitting.

Researchers, health care professionals and government agencies have realized the health importance of limiting peoples sedentary behavior in addition to increasing their physical activity levels. So not only do we need to move more (at a moderate-to-vigorous intensity), but we also need to sit less during the day.

Some countries, such as Australia and Canada, have been leaders in advancing guidelines on how to reduce sedentary behavior and screen time. Because the research is still in its infancy, the current sedentary behavior guidelines are considered consensus sensible guidelines. This means that as more science emerges on the health effects of sedentary behavior, the guidelines will be updated to reflect the new knowledge. These guidelines are the same update to guidelines we are using to develop our Healthy Moves Journals.

The idea is “Move more and sit less every day.” More specifically, the guidelines recommend limiting motorized transportation, extended sitting time, time spent indoors and recreational screen time.

Extended sitting is often quantified as sitting without a break for one hour. In other words, if you’ve been sitting for an hour, you have been sitting for too long. The ultimate goal for people should be to break up sitting times with light-intensity activity one to two times per hour. And recreational screen time should be limited to no more than two hours per day.

How many people actually meet both the sedentary and physical activity guidelines? Canadian researchers found that only 15 percent of 3- to 4-year-olds and 5 percent of 5-year-olds are meeting both the physical activity and sedentary behavior guidelines. These findings are a wake-up call that we need to stand up more and move more during the day. Your health depends on it. So, track your moves during the day and make sure you are getting up and getting moving.

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