How to Help Counteract the Negative Effects of Sitting All Day

imageTo help track and engage in the daily activity that can limit the negative effects of sitting, start by finding your daily baseline with a pedometer. Whether with a pedometer, Fitbit, or even a phone app, take a 30-minute walk and see how many steps you take. This number will vary based on how quickly you walk and how large your steps are.

Next, you want to find a baseline of your daily activity. Start using the pedometer when you first wake up in the morning and keep it in your pocket, on your wrist, or running on your phone until you go to bed. This will give you an estimate of your regular daily activity. For some, this may be frighteningly low on the days without purposeful exercise.

To help meet your daily activity target, all it takes is a slight alteration to your behavior. Here are a few ideas for how to do it without really trying:

  • Park near the back of the parking lot.
  • Stand up to visit the file cabinet instead of rolling your chair.
  • Walk over and talk to a coworker instead of emailing them.
  • Take the scenic route to the bathroom instead of the most direct.

Meeting your target activity level is just the first step. The second is much simpler and only requires you stand up now and again.

You can reduce the negative effects of sitting all day just by standing up for one or two minutes every hour. Technically, you don’t even have to move, the act of standing alone helps. Since this may be difficult to remember while focused on your work, so it helps to set an hourly reminder. For Mac users, click Settings > Date & Time > Announce the time. Windows users can set up a similar hourly reminder as a task by clicking Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Task Scheduler.

If the alarm isn’t enough, you can download dedicated software to remind you. Windows users can use free programs like, Workrave or Breaker to set up automated alerts. For Macs, Time Out seems the best free option. These programs will remind you to stand and dim the desktop to force you out of your chair.

It’s up to you how you use these micro-breaks. You don’t even have to move if you don’t want to, but if you want to squeeze in a little activity, here’s a quick way to do it without leaving your desk area:

  • Stand up.
  • March in place for twenty seconds.
  • Reach down and try to touch your toes for twenty seconds.
  • Wander around and pick up or reorganize for the last twenty seconds (eventually your desk area may even be clean).

Remember: stand up once an hour and get at least 30 minutes of purposeful activity in a day. Those two simple choices will help counteract the negative effects of sitting.

Originally published on Lifehacker, January 26, 2012.