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Sitting Less

Sitting less is better for your health. Being more active throughout the day reduces your risk for disease and improves your well-being.
Why sit less?

We often sit for long periods at work, when we travel and in our leisure time. This puts your health at risk, even if you get regularly scheduled exercise most days.

Moving your body in small ways throughout the day is just as important as getting regular exercise to reduce your risk for health issues like cancer, heart disease and depression. Being active helps you be healthier, live longer, sleep well, and handle stress better.

Engaging in more light activity throughout your day will reduce your risks for:
  • cancer (ovarian, endometrial, colon & lung)
  • heart disease
  • hypertension
  • high blood pressure, sugar levels & cholesterol (metabolic syndrome)
  • osteoporosis
  • type 2 diabetes
  • weight gain
  • depression
  • low self-esteem

Incremental activity helps you stay alert and keeps your body and mind healthy.

Sedentary behaviour

The design of work, schools, transportation systems and the larger environment means we often sit; this is called ‘sedentary behaviour’. 

Being sedentary is different than not getting enough exercise. 

If you spend most of your day sitting, you are at risk for health problems even if you are physically active for 30 – 60 minutes each day.

Common sedentary behaviours include:
  • sitting for long periods of time at school or work
  • using a computer
  • communicating through technologies (phone, tablet)
  • using motorized transportation
  • reading
  • watching television

Canadian women spend 69% of their waking hours in sedentary activities, about the same amount of time as men. But women tend to spend their time doing different activities than men.

Women spend more sitting time:
  • reading 
  • talking or texting on the phone
  • socializing or ‘hanging around

Some challenges women face when it comes to being active:

  • lack of time
  • demands of caregiving
  • concerns about safety
  • cost of recreation

Many factors influence how sedentary you are, such as your neighbourhood, social network and economic resources. While you don’t have control over all of these elements of your life, finding ways to move more throughout your day will benefit your overall health and well-being.

Reducing sedentary behaviour is often difficult because of the organization of our daily lives. We often work far from home and sit in traffic to get there. Our jobs require us to sit for long periods of the day. Some people have flexibility about how and where they work, or can arrange a stand-up desk to help increase their mobility throughout the day. Others can choose to have walking meetings, breaking up the day with exercise, or standing up to talk on the phone.

Women may be more likely to have jobs where they have limited opportunity to change the structure of their workplace and, as a result, have fewer chances to reduce the amount of time they spend sitting.

While many of us use computers at work all day, some people also use the computer during their leisure time. Heavy leisure-time computer users - those who report spending 11 or more hours per week on the computer - are often younger, unmarried and male. Individuals who are unemployed are also likely to spend considerable leisure-time using a computer.

Watching TV is another common sedentary behaviour. Television and computers are easily accessible and seemingly low cost entertainment options for everyone.

The good news is society is becoming aware of the need to reduce sedentary behavior. Activity friendly policies in schools are teaching children to move more throughout their school day; adults are encouraged to move more at work and at home. 

Talk with your healthcare provider about your activity levels if you are concerned about the amount of time you sit and its impact on your health. 



Moving your body more often each day will improve your health. Engaging in any type of activity to reduce the amount of time you sit will have health benefits.

  • adolescents (12-17 years) get 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity each day
  • adults get 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity per week
You don’t need to go to a gym to make physical activity part of your life. In addition to exercise classes and sports, there are many ways to be active:
  • do housework
  • pull weeds in the garden
  • take a brisk walk
  • rake leaves
  • mow the lawn

Infants and young children (0-4 years)
  • minimize the time infants (under 1 year), toddlers (aged 1–2 years) and preschoolers (aged 3–4 years) are sedentary during waking hours 
  • limit prolonged sitting or being restrained in a stroller or high chair to one hour at a time
  • avoid TV, computer and electronic games for children under 2 years 
  • limit screen time to under 1 hour a day for children 2–4 years
Children and youth (5-17 years)
  • limit TV, recreational computer use and electronic games to no more than 2 hours per day
  • limit sedentary (motorized) transport
  • limit extended sitting and time spent indoors
Reduce your family’s sitting time in ways that may also benefit your health:
  • Walk or bike to school with a group of friends instead of driving or taking the bus.
  • Engage in active play after school, in the evening and on weekends.
  • Limit after-school TV watching and video-gaming. 
  • Visit friends instead of texting them.
  • Walk or go for a family bike ride after dinner.
  • Plan active holidays.

Adding more movement to your day when you are at home, at work or in transit can help improve your health.

At work:
  • Take sitting breaks.
    • set the alarm on your computer or phone to remind you to stand up more often, stretch and move your body.
    • Stand up to talk on the telephone.
  • Schedule walking meetings. 
    • Ask colleagues to walk the hallway or go outside to meet.
  • Communicate in-person.
    • Get up and walk to your colleague’s desk to give them the message instead of sending an email or text.
  • Take the stairs.
    • Get out of the elevator a few floors early and walk to your floor. 
At home:
  • Switch between standing and sitting to read, watch TV or use the computer.
  • Stand to do household chores like folding the laundry, ironing or doing the dishes.
  • Move around when using technology. 
    • Walk around the house when talking on the telephone, checking text messages or emailing on your mobile phone.
In transit:
  • Leave your car at home and take public transit.
  • Stand instead of siting on the bus or subway.
  • Get off a stop or two early and walk the rest of the way to your destination.
  • Walk or bike to work or school whenever it is safe and appropriate.

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