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Why You Should Sit Less and Move More

By Angelica Ribeiro, Ph.D.

Are you someone who spends a lot of time sitting while working or writing? If so, it’s important to understand the negative effects of prolonged sitting on your health and well-being.

Research has linked sitting for extended periods of time to a decrease in happiness levels and an increase in mortality rates. This was discussed in an article by Gretchen Reynolds, a physical education reporter for the New York Times. She explains that previous studies have shown a connection between “prolonged sitting and higher risks of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, obesity, and premature death,” as well as an “association between inactivity and cancer deaths.”

In his book One Small Step Can Change Your Life, clinical psychologist Robert Maurer, from the UCLA School of Medicine and the University of Washington School of Medicine, explains that prolonged sitting is detrimental to our health because our muscles become inactive, slowing down our metabolic rate and good cholesterol manufacture. In addition, the enzyme KK1 that breaks down some of the fat in blood is shut down, and the heart, blood volume, muscles, and even bone mass can be adversely affected.

Furthermore, researcher Katy Bowman points out that prolonged sitting can negatively impact our cells and the oxygen delivery process. In her book Move Your DNA, Bowman writes, “taking yourself for a walk is like taking your cells out to eat […] If your cells don’t get fed, they die.” Moreover, she reminds us that “movement is an essential step in the process of oxygen delivery.” Movement promotes the delivery of oxygen to the brain and activates the prefrontal cortex—the area of the brain responsible for decision-making, planning, and executing. As a result, movement helps you think more clearly and efficiently and increases your ability to focus on work tasks. Movement also increases endorphin and dopamine levels, leading to an improved mood and motivation to work.

To avoid the negative effects of prolonged sitting, it’s important to make time for movement. You don’t have to go to the gym to move. Light-intensity activities, such as gardening and housework, are enough to reduce your risk of experiencing all the negative effects of too much sitting.

But how can you avoid prolonged sitting and include more movement at work? Here are some ideas: you can take a few one-minute breaks throughout the workday to:

  • do jumping jacks,
  • do squats,
  • stretch at the desk,
  • go for a brisk walk.

Also, if possible, you can choose to:

  • take the stairs instead of the elevator,
  • walk to a coworker’s desk instead of sending an email,
  • have a walk meeting,
  • park farther away from your workplace entrance.

Remember, avoiding prolonged sitting by making time to move is crucial for your overall well-being and happiness, both in and out of work.

Angelica Ribeiro

Happiness at Work bookAngelica Ribeiro is a writer, researcher, and professor. She is the author of How to Create Happiness at Work, Running into Happiness, and My Happiness Habit Journal. She holds a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction with a focus on English as a second language from Texas A&M University. She has taught English learners and preservice teachers in the United States and Brazil for over 25 years. Angelica has several publications on second language acquisition. She works as a professor in higher education and helps others benefit from her happiness research. When she was a Ph.D. student, Angelica struggled with balancing her academic commitments and personal life, which motivated her to embark on a journey to increase happiness. Her journey was so successful that now she encourages others to create happiness in their busy lives by sharing science-based strategies. Visit