It’s no secret that lack of activity can lead to a range of health problems like neck and lower back pain. But did you know lack of movement can increase the risk of more serious conditions, like heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer?

Unlike any generation before ours, our lives are centered around screens – for work, school, daily communication and entertainment. Screens aren’t all bad but living a very sedentary lifestyle can be. The good news? There are ways to combat the negative health impacts of sitting too much.

It’s never too late to change your routine and start moving more or exercising.

Why is sitting too much not good for you?

There’s nothing wrong with resting for a while – in fact, our minds and bodies need time to recharge. But when a significant amount of your day is spent sitting, it takes the place of other activities and can begin to negatively affect your health.

Health risks of sitting too much

The physical and mental benefits of exercise are well known. Staying active keeps your bones and muscles strong, helps you maintain a healthy weight, improves sleep, focus and mental health – the list goes on. But many people are unaware of the potential risks of being inactive. Some of the ways sitting too much can hurt your health include:

Inactivity can also increase the risks for chronic health conditions, including:

When sitting too much is a part of your daily routine and lifestyle, it can be intimidating to try to change. But you don’t have to tackle it all at once. Small steps in the right direction can improve your health and also feel manageable so that you can sustain the new habits long-term.

Everyone is different, so certain activities and routines may work better for some people and not as well for others. Try a few things to see what works for you. You’ll know it’s working if you see improvement and feel energized. Then incorporate those habits into your routine.

Here are some habits that will get you up and active:

  • Avoid too much screen time (and try not to eat meals in front of a screen)
  • Choose the stairs
  • Park farther away
  • Make plans (with others or solo) to stay busy and in motion
  • Walk around while you’re on the phone
  • Go to the grocery store yourself rather than scheduling drive-up or delivery services
  • If you’re going to watch TV, try doing some light exercise at the same time (lift light weights, do simple exercises or just stretch)
  • Set a timer to stand up and stretch regularly (try once every half hour or hour)
  • If you sit at a desk for work, make sure your setup is ergonomic and get a standing desk for more activity, if possible

There are some great exercises you can do at home (or work) to keep your body active and loosen tight muscles. The best part? They only take about 15-30 seconds at a time to complete.

1. Follow this three-step exercise routine to get you feeling better – especially if your job requires you to sit a lot

  • Step 1: Stand up, put your shoulders back and turn your hands so that your palms face forward.
  • Step 2: Take a deep breath, pulling your shoulder blades toward one another while pushing your hips forward.
  • Step 3: Repeat this process two to three times.

2. Get more movement while you’re at your desk

Try getting down on one knee and continuing to work in this position. This will improve your posture by causing you to straighten your neck, back and shoulders, plus it will engage your core muscles to keep you active.

3. Prevent back pain while you’re sitting on the couch
Not all sitting is bad. Sometimes watching your favorite show is a type of self-care. But it’s easy to plant yourself on the couch for long periods, which can lead to poor posture and back problems over time. Here are a few fun tips for staying healthy during down time.
During commercial breaks (or every 15 minutes), try a couple of the following exercises:

  • Do some stretches
  • Dance to your favorite music for 30 seconds
  • Do pushups or jumping jacks for at least 30 seconds
  • Do planks for 30 seconds
  • Do calf raises or crunches for 30 seconds
  • Quickly dust or vacuum all or part of the room

Don’t sit on this – talk to your doctor about ways to stay active and improve your health

If a lack of physical activity is impacting your overall health, it’s important to talk to a doctor. Your primary care doctor is a good person to start with. They can assess your overall health and help you make a plan to improve your activity levels and meet your lifestyle and goals.