Sure, you hit the gym or studio for a sweat session on the regular, but how active are you the rest of the day? When Fitbit data scientists looked into the daily routines of Fitbit users, they found that, on average, some users were sedentary for up to 90 minutes at a time throughout the day.
Ninety straight minutes of sitting may not sound that long—or that uncommon (hello, deadlines)—but it may be enough to wreak havoc on your health. Multiple studies show that excessive sitting increases your risk of diabetes, heart disease and early death.
Worst of all, daily exercise might not be enough to offset the effects of too much time on your tush. A 2015 study, for instance, analyzed data from 47 studies to find that a 45-minute workout didn’t seem to be enough to significantly reduce the risk of conditions like heart disease and type-2 diabetes.
“Exercisers are usually only moving for one or two hours a day, and then they’re sedentary before and after that single bout of movement,” says Katy Bowman, biomechanist and author of the book Movement Matters. “If we look at those cultures with the lowest rates of heart disease, and those with the highest concentration of adults living to 100, they tend to not only move more minutes per day than most, they move more throughout each day.”
Step Up to the Challenge
So how can you get your workout fix and stay healthy the rest of the day? Just put one foot in front of the other—for a couple of minutes—and repeat.
University of Utah School of Medicine researchers found that when people incorporated bursts of low-intensity activity (like walking, gardening or vacuuming) into their day, their mortality risk dropped 33 percent. The resulting recommendation from the study authors? Add two minutes of walking for each hour you sit, in combination with 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise the CDC recommends you get each week.
And do it now, because Fitbit researchers noticed that total sedentary time appears to increase with age. It jumps up by about an hour between the ages of 20 and 24 (welcome to the workforce, millennials!), increases again by about 30 more minutes from ages 24 to 30, and again by another 30 minutes from ages 30 to 55.
Small Changes, Big Results
Adding more movement into your day doesn’t require any major changes, so if your boss won’t splurge for a standing desk, don’t sweat it. Here are five easy things you can do instead.
- Skip the drive-through. When going to the bank or pharmacy, park and walk inside.
- Don’t stay seated during long conference calls. Pace while you talk.
- For quick info requests, avoid email. Swing by a co-worker’s desk and ask them in person.
- Keep a water bottle on your desk. You’ll get in steps every time you refill it—and take a bathroom break.
- Opt into Reminders to Move, a free Fitbit feature that gives you a gentle vibrational nudge 10 minutes before the hour if you haven’t taken 250 steps. Don’t have a tracker? Set an alarm or calendar reminder on your smartphone.
For more simple-but-effective strategies, check out 11 Ways to Squeeze More Movement Into Your Day.