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Physical Activity

Sedentary Behaviour

What is sedentary behaviour?

Sedentary behaviour is defined by activities while awake that use 1.5 metabolic equivalents (METs) of energy or less such as sitting while watching TV, playing video games, reading, using a computer, driving or riding in an automobile.

The less sedentary you are, the better it is for your health.

Even someone who runs daily for exercise may not be as healthy as they could be if they are sedentary for the rest of the day.  There are many people who think that being physically active and exercising hard is the best way to reduce health risks, but it’s also extremely important to be less sedentary throughout each day.

What are the risks?

Canadians are spending an alarming amount of time in sedentary behaviours.  New studies suggest that the amount of time spent in sedentary behaviours may increase the risks of overweight and obesity, regardless of the amount of time spent in physically active behaviours.

An individual who meets physical activity guidelines can still spend a great deal of time in sedentary activities, such as sitting at work or watching television.  This can lead to increased risks for metabolic disorders, and of overweight or obesity.

High levels of overall sedentary behaviour time may contribute to obesity potentially as much as does lack of moderate to vigorous physical activity.

sedentary active


Tips to reduce sedentary behaviour at work and at home:

  • An important first step is to actually be more mindful about being less sedentary. There are lots of ways to remind yourself to move about during the day, such as using a screen saver or a beeper.
  • Stand up, move around and stretch more often at home, or at your desk or workplace.
  • Reduce time watching TV, or do some physical activity while watching your favourite program, and get up and move during commercial breaks.
  • Take active breaks during your work day (e.g. go for a short walk on your breaks, and/or a longer walk on lunch hours).
  • Visit co-workers in person, rather than sending e-mail for everything.
  • Call a “walking meeting” with co-workers; walk indoors or outside.

The more you know (and do) about being less sedentary, the more you’ll benefit and lead by example for others – family members, children, work colleagues etc.

Sources:  Canadian Fitness & Lifestyle Research Institute and the Alberta Centre for Active Living Research & Education.

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