The most effective way to get people moving
The health risks of sitting too much are earning increased attention as studies tie long days at an office desk to increased risk of anxiety, some cancers, heart disease and even death. But, getting people to sit less can be challenging.
A new research review tried to answer this question by analyzing 26 studies reporting 38 different interventions and determining their effectiveness. In the end, researchers found that general campaigns designed to get people to increase their activity levels may improve people’s fitness routines, but won’t change their sitting habits.
“Most people understand the importance of physical exercise, but the dangers of sitting too much are still surprising to many,” say Dr. Julie Brandies, an internal medicine physician at Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, Ill. “If patients are exercising several times a week and in good overall health, it’s still important for physicians to check in about their daily work environment.”
According to the study, the best ways to get people to sit less included education, persuasion, environmental restructuring and goal setting.
- People’s habits improved when they were educated on the health benefits of reducing their sitting time.
- Participants also responded well to programs that helped them set individual goals and used prompts and cues to remind them they’ve been sitting too long.
- Environmental restructuring related to making physical changes to living and working spaces, such as using standing or treadmill desks.
While these findings may be useful to public health practitioners and policymakers, the researchers stressed that many of these interventions can also be implemented by individuals.
“Improving your health can be as simple as getting up and taking a five minute walk every hour or two,” says Dr. Brandies. “Even small changes to our daily routines can make a huge positive impact on our overall health.”
Dr. Brandies offers the following tips for getting on your feet while at work:
- Keep a small water bottle at your desk and refill it every hour or so. This will give you an excuse to get up and stretch your legs, which also helps you stay well hydrated.
- Install a standing desk in your work space. If you are unable to change out your furniture, look around your space for a suitable compromise. If you work on a laptop computer, try putting it on a shelf or cabinet surface to allow you to stand and work.
- If you’re unable to get up and take a walk, try to do some desk stretches and exercises.
- Use a fitness tracker, pedometer, or app on your smart phone for motivation. Set a daily steps goal and try to meet it as often as possible. 10,000 steps is a great place to start.
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.