Skip to content

This One Change Reduces The Health Risks Of Sitting, Study Says

Elizabeth Gerson
January 14, 2019
Elizabeth Gerson
By Elizabeth Gerson
mbg Contributor
Elizabeth Gerson is a former mindbodygreen intern and a student at Stanford University studying Psychology and Communication with a specialization in Health & Development.
Woman stretching
Image by Clique Images / Stocksy
January 14, 2019

We already know that sitting all day can wreak havoc on our backs and our brains, which has left so many of us who work desk jobs wondering what we can do about it. After all, the higher risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, and early death that come along with sitting for prolonged periods of time should not be taken lightly.

Those who work a 9-to-5, rejoice: A new study may have found a solution to reducing the health risk associated with sitting, and it's not as tough to achieve as you may think.

By replacing only half an hour of sitting per day with any sort of physical activity—that's right, any physical activity—you could reduce your risk of early death by up to 35 percent. Taking a stroll on your lunch break or sticking to a morning gym routine suddenly seem much more appealing.

Even short bursts of activity could provide benefits to your health, according to Dr. Keith Diaz, assistant professor of behavioral medicine at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center and lead author of the study.

The study had about 7,999 adults aged 45 and older wear activity monitors for a period of four days to get a better sense of how often and how intensely each individual moved. By examining this data as well as participants' death rates through 2017, researchers were able to determine how their activity levels would affect early death.

While they found that any activity is better than nothing, intensity activity does have something to do with it. Lower-intensity activities reduced the risk of early death by about 17 percent whereas higher-intensity activities were able to cut it by 35 percent. Whether a heart-pounding HIIT class or an afternoon walk is more your speed, both activities will play a part in promoting your overall well-being.

For those looking to get more activity into their days at the office, try thinking about adjusting your everyday routines to stay on your feet. Using the stairs as opposed to the elevator, taking walks with one-on-one meeting partners, and making frequent trips to the water cooler are just a few of Diaz's favorite ways to increase movement throughout the day.

Sure, sitting is bad; we've got that covered. But what about that shiny new standing desk burning a hole in your Amazon cart? Unfortunately, the verdict's still out on whether or not standing actually provides the health benefits many of the desk manufacturers claim. Diaz and his team, however, have future plans to demystify some of these assertions: "To evaluate these claims, we hope to study whether standing is linked to changes in cholesterol, glucose, blood pressure, and muscle pain."

The implications of this study also go beyond physical health, as they have the potential to shape the way we view exercise. "[I]t's time we start rethinking our beliefs about physical activity," Diaz says. Lower-intensity workouts shouldn't be disregarded as an ineffective form of exercise. This study shows that you don't need to spend hours at the gym to reap health benefits.

If this study has you itching to jump out of your desk chair, look to quick routines you can sneak into your day or plan activities you genuinely enjoy—gym not always required. Making sure you remain active throughout the day, especially if you find yourself often glued to your desk, may seem tedious, but it serves as a much larger investment in your future.

Elizabeth Gerson author page.
Elizabeth Gerson

Elizabeth Gerson is a former mindbodygreen intern and a student at Stanford University studying Psychology and Communication with a specialization in Health & Development. She has also written for and The Stanford Daily and runs a paleo(ish) food Instagram, @healthy_lizard.