Why You Should Stand up, Move More, and Sit Less

Breaking up your day with movement—even in short installments—can help you manage your weight and maintain well-being.

woman standing stretching

Medically reviewed in February 2021

Updated on March 11, 2022

Americans need to stand up, move more—and sit less. That’s been the bottom line message from government health officials since they issued physical activity guidelines back in 2008. But research published in July 2019 in JAMA Network Open shows that many people still haven’t gotten the message. The proportion of adults meeting physical activity recommendations from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) didn’t improve dramatically between 2007 and 2016. On top of that, Americans are sitting even more than they were before. 

Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week, or at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity. Keep in mind, if you can get closer to 300 minutes of moderate exercise or 150 minutes of more strenuous activity on a weekly basis, it’s even better. In fact, the more exercise you get, the greater the health benefits, experts advise.

In short: It's time to stand up.

Stand up to size down
One study of middle-aged adults found those who broke up their sedentary hours the most—by frequently getting out of their chairs for a bit—had waists that were more than an inch smaller than their sedentary peers.

Waist size is one rough indicator of how healthy you are. A larger waist circumfrence is linked to some negative health effects, such as inflammation, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, high blood sugar, and fat deposits around vital organs. All of these effects may, in turn, increase your risk for chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease. Standing up and moving more, however, can help people maintain a healthy weight and reduce this type of abdonimal fat. Even small changes can help. In the study, people had to stand for only one minute for it to count as a break.

How to make it a habit
Breaks from sitting don't have to be long, but they do have to be frequent to have an impact on your waistline. Use a reminder system that will provide regular prompts whenever you're sedentary—whether it's a watch that beeps, a timer that ticks or a computer program that gives you a pop-up reminder. Sound like too much? Consider this: Related studies suggest that people with highly sedentary habits live shorter lives and have a greater risk of heart disease—even if they exercise regularly. So make it a point to stand up and move throughout the day.

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