We're well aware that sitting all day is damaging your body in countless ways, but counteracting that isn't just about exercising. As the Wall Street Journal points out, it's also about getting up and walking more.
The focus for most health departments has been to push people to get about 30 minutes of exercise a day, but exercise alone isn't enough if you spend the rest of your day sitting around:
A study that followed more than 240,000 adults over 8½ years found that watching a large amount of television was associated with a higher risk of death, including from cardiovascular disease — even for participants who reported seven or more hours a week of moderate-to-vigorous exercise...
"Our results suggest that exercise alone may not be enough to eliminate risks associated with too much sitting," says Charles Matthews, lead author of the study and an investigator with the National Institutes of Health.
The reason is pretty simple, all the movement you do throughout the day, from getting up to grab a glass of water to doing the dishes, burns calories and increase metabolism. Even if you're exercising daily, sitting all day counteracts that. The best thing you can do? Walk more. The goal is to hit about 10,000 steps a day (which is the equivalent of about 6km; we typically average around 5000 steps a day). You can track your steps with fitness-tracking gear, a cheap pedometer, or even a free app like Moves for iPhone or Accupedo for Android.
Since you may need to essentially double the amount of steps you take a day, you might have to get creative with how you spend your day. We've heard plenty of tricks to do this before, like walking up the stairs instead of taking a lift (walking up 10 stairs is the equivalent of taking 38 steps on the ground), parking further away in the carpark, and getting up throughout the day to walk around the office. But if you still want to sit around and watch TV, the Wall Street Journal has a simple fix with surprising results:
Dr. Bassett says a doctoral student in his department conducted a study in which 58 people watching 90 minutes of television marched in place in front of the TV during commercial breaks. "They increased their steps by about 3000 per day just by doing this during commercials," says Dr Bassett. "That's equivalent to about 30 minutes of walking."
That's a pretty big boost to your step count, and it doesn't really require that much effort on your part (although you may annoy anyone watching TV with you).
Hard Math: Adding Up Just How Little We Actually Move [Wall Street Journal]