Sitting a lot? Take frequent breaks, even if you exercise.

Even if you follow standard recommendations for physical activity with the aim of “reducing risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers”, it seems that, according to [1], having long periods of inactivity is distinctly “related to risk of chronic disease independent of physical activity”.

Interestingly, taking more frequent breaks from sitting seems to be beneficially associated with metabolic risk variables. Again from [1]: “independent of total sedentary time, moderate-to-vigorous intensity time, and mean intensity of the breaks, more interruptions in sedentary time were beneficially associated with metabolic risk variables, particularly adiposity measures, triglycerides, and 2-h plasma glucose.”

It appears that “it is not only the amount of sedentary time that is important, but also the manner in which it is accumulated.”


  1. Breaks in Sedentary Time: Beneficial associations with metabolic risk (link)

Office worker? Stand up and walk!

Office workers tend to sit. A lot.

Spending too much time sitting can be detrimental to our health. There is “significant evidence on the adverse cardio-metabolic health consequences of sitting” [1]. Additionally, “high levels of TV time were significantly associated with increased all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality” [1].

Interestingly, daily exercise alone does not seem to offset the adverse effects of prolonged sitting. “Even if daily exercise recommendations are met, metabolic health might be compromised if sitting occurs without regular breaks”. [2].

The one most important thing you can do, is to take breaks from sedentary time. According to [2], “breaks in sedentary time (as distinct from the overall volume of time spent being sedentary) were shown to have beneficial associations with metabolic biomarkers”.

During your work day, you should get up and move briefly regularly. Having a higher number of breaks in sedentary time was “beneficially associated with waist circumference, body mass index, triglycerides, and 2-h plasma glucose” [1].

So what is a good sitting/standing ratio? “Wellness perception varies across sit:stand ratios, typically greatest near 24:6.” [3]. This ratio ties up nicely with the Pomodoro technique [3]:

  • Set a timer for 25 minutes. Start working.
  • Then, take a 5 minute break. Get up and move away from you desk. Try being lightly/moderately active. Walk around, stretch, maybe do a bit of light strength training.
  • Repeat.


  1. Too Much Sitting: The Population-Health Science of Sedentary Behavior (link)
  2. Different sit:stand time ratios within a 30-minute cycle change perceptions related to musculoskeletal disorders (link)
  3. Wikipedia page on Pomodoro Technique