When I was at the CDC, sedentary time was just beginning to emerge as a topic of conversation and research. The evidence is strong for improving physical activity, but the negative consequences of sitting – and not just physical inactivity – is becoming an area of focus.

We know that there are a lot of people who spend much of the day sitting (if you are reading this, you may be one of them). But researchers have seen an increasing trend in people spending their free time sitting—and especially spending time on the computer outside of work. Although the number of people watching videos or television for at least two hours per day is high (close to two thirds of US adults), at least that number hasn’t been increasing since 2001.

Prolonged sitting is problematic for several reasons. Researchers have shown that it’s associated with poor mortality outcomes, and specifically obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes. Even worse is that it takes a lot of physical activity to counteract long periods of sitting.

Recommendations therefore encourage adults to move around more frequently—even by simply standing up regularly.

The good news for employers is that they have some control over how much workers sit or move on the job. The CDC provides several workplace strategies that can help improve physical activity and reduce sedentary time for employees. These can include physical activity breaks, walking meetings, sit-stand desks and encouragement to take stairs.


Posted by Erin Peterson