The Truth About Sitting


Are you an Active Coach Potato?

Mrs Potato Head


That`s the term coined for those of us who jump around the gym for an hour a day, or pound the roads for a four mile trot. Then, freed of exercise guilt. we feel its ok to be sedentary for the rest of the day.

I`d tuned in to BBC`s Michael Mosley a few months back and, in the midst of a fascinating programme on how to improve cardio-vascular fitness as swiftly as possible, he delved a little into the truth about how sedentary we are.

The programme`s research showed that hitting the gym isn`t enough. We have to keep moving more throughout the day if we want to offset the effects of a sedentary lifestyle.

Mosley expanded on that theory a couple of weeks ago on the Marian Finucane Show on Ireland`s Radio One. He told Marian about the experiment that had been conducted on people who worked in an estate agents. They volunteered, for the purposes of the experiment, to stand for three hours a day for ten weeks.

The volunteers had their blood sugar tested, before and after the trial. They also wore heart rate monitors.

And yes, you`ve guessed it, standing improved their heart rates, and their blood sugar control. They also burned more fat. In fact, standing for just three hours per day meant that, in the course of a year, they would have run the calorific equivalent of ten marathons.

So, even if your job demands that you`re chained to a desk, maybe you could do that work standing. At the very least, Mosley says, you should stand for a minute every half hour to offset the effects of all that sitting about.

Runner`s World is even more strident and graphic in it`s presentation of the effects of sitting this month.

Sitting is the New Smoking

Sitting is the New Smoking

Yes,as you`ll see from the cover sub heading, the article compares sitting with smoking.

“The more you sit, the poorer your health and the earlier you may die, no matter how much you run or how fit you are”

Heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and even depression, are all higher in people who sit for nine hours or more per day.

And it doesn`t matter how fit you are. It`s the sitting that causes the problem.

Running can do you an awful lot of good” states the article “but if you spend the rest of your waking hours sitting, those health benefits deprecate”

The article also tosses in the theory that “regular exercisers may actually make less of an effort to move outside of their designated exercise times”

Well, that`s me, for sure. Some days I feel so darn smug about my long slow run, I`ll loll about the place for the rest of the day.

Some people are taking this matter so seriously, they`re actually working from special standing desks, rather than sitting down. Others actually do their desk job while walking on a treadmill. Though I think I`ll pass on that one.

But the truth is, some of my runner`s high comes from feeling I`ve deserved my spell on the coach. And my day job-remember all that cloak and dagger stuff I do from the comfort of a bar stool?-is pretty sedentary in itself. I really must make a conscious effort to take proper sitting breaks. As in breaks from sitting.

And this research really scares me when I look at life inside the Chook House. The Teens are practically tethered to the coach  with an assortment of wires and screens. They probably do move on average every half hour to raid the fridge or the biscuit tin, compounding the damage to their blood sugar levels in the process.

Could it be, that in the lifetimes of Generation Layabout, sitting really will be frowned upon as much as smoking is now? Perhaps they will be greeted by a raft of newly designed desks in the offices of the future? And maybe sitting about on exercise balls, as recommended in “Runner`s World” will be the big trend? Everywhere – airports, passport offices, cinemas- will have specially designed sections to encourage people to stand.

And stamped on window panes and walls will be stickers and posters with a big red X on a big black sofa declaring

“No Sitting”

Oh, and by the way, I`m  writing this from a laying position. But, that`s okay for Red Hens…


Excellent articles on the subject here…

Picture Credits: Mrs Potato Head is from

Runner`s World pic is my own.



21 thoughts on “The Truth About Sitting

  1. Pingback: Been Sitting Around Too Much? | redhenrun

  2. This is really worrying, but does make sense to me. I think my most ‘healthy’ job would have been when I worked in retail, and that’s even when it was a coffee shop (with easy access to pastries!). My continual movement and constantly being on my feet left me with more energy (and a smaller waistline) than any desk job I’ve had since. Fascinating study, thanks for sharing!

  3. I’m so depressed reading this as I just started an office job a couple of months ago. I feel extremely bad if I don’t get to the gym or out for a run at least 3 times a week. I have even found myself standing up and typing. Now I know why… my body doesn’t want to be sitting for 8 hours straight. Think I’ll have to make a conscious effort to stand up and walk around more often. I suppose acknowledging you have a problem is half the battle… thanks for putting it into words.

    • You work so hard in the garden, it`s bound to be keeping you naturally fit. After that, the important thing is to move every half hour or so. Mosley says he`s more inclined to go find someone now than send them an email!

  4. Very intetesting. It has a lot of implications for loads if us. My job is not particularly sedentary but i took upcrsfting to help me sit!!! I think long slow runs have to be rewarded with a rest. There has to be some benefit!

    • Remember, according to Mosley`s(and his team`s) research, it`s standing that`s important. And getting up every half hour is important. But, since, writing this post, I`ve noticed that actually, it`s damned hard to sit for longer than half an hour. Maybe it`s just me? I get very restless if I have to sit down. Absolutely have to take standing breaks. That said, I know I could stand to move more at work. And embrace housework as actually being good for my health, instead of just an exercise in frustration!
      Anyway, don`t you dare stop your craft work.Stand if you must, but keep those needles busy! 😉

      • You have made me more mindful about my activities which can only be a good thing? I too hate sitting still for too long (or is it not allowed to sit for too long?) I shall not stop crafting – it is my sanity after all. 🙂

  5. The same issue was highlighted last week in our local paper with a couple of the journalists working at them there standing desks. It’s most worrying concerning the young generation though. It’s very difficult to reverse the effects of an inactive childhood.

  6. Very interesting post and also worrying. I do get fidgety if I sit for too long but I do a darn sight more of it these days now that I blog! Have really been trying to up the walking hours – no way could I run like you, but a good stiff walk is what I’ve been trying to achieve at least every other day. Tennis twice a week is on hold due to a frozen shoulder but that always made me feel virtuous 🙂

    • Yes, blogging can be very harmful for one`s health! But the main message seems to be to move in some shape or form. Some of us think, just because we exercise we`re off the hook for the rest of the day. Not so. Just standing is a huge help.

  7. I heard that same interview and found it fascinating! Thank goodness while I do sit at the computer a lot… I always stand and move about while on the phone to compensate… still need to get more active though.

    • My understanding is that getting up and about every half hour helps offset the damage of all that sitting about. Anyway, sitting more than half an hour without a break is uncomfortable.

  8. i read that same article, and my first thought was “i wonder if there’s such as thing as ‘second-hand sitting’.” You know, you’re standing, but the folks around you are sitting, so you take a seat too. uh-oh…

  9. I have to admit having a bit of a guilty gulp after reading this – although I’m reasonably active generally, my stitching is very sedentary indeed – you’ve got me thinking about how I could stand up to do it!

    • Oh, don`t worry. I tried standing too when I was `working`on my laptop-just found it impossible to get comfortable. I think the important thing is to stand and stretch every half hour and I bet you`re inclined to do that anyway.
      Thank you for your thoughtful comment!

    • I found the subject fascinating myself. I always thought my running offset my laying about. Apparently not. I really hope this leads scientists to wax eloquently about the value of housework. I know you wrote about how housework can be used as part of our exercise routines. It was seen as valueless-in exercise terms anyway-in the past.

      • It is a very interesting topic. Housework burns around 170 calories per hour I think, so it does take energy. The Australian Heart Foundation has some great tips on how to keep active in an office like standing during phone calls. Loved your post 🙂

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