PhotoIt's now commonly accepted that prolonged sitting isn't good for you. It contributes to cancer, diabetes, heart disease and early death, among other things. 

So how to avoid it? It seems pretty obvious -- get up and move around. But that doesn't really answer the question of which anti-sitting strategies are the most effective, so researchers led by the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King's College London took a closer look. Their findings are published in the journal Health Psychology Review.

The study found that increasing levels of physical activity is likely to be much less effective at reducing prolonged sitting than directly attempting to decrease sitting time.

What works

The researchers looked at 38 interventions and found that a majority (60%) were promising while 39% were not.

Some of the promising interventions included: 

  • the provision of sit-stand desks at work,
  • encouraging people to keep records of their own sitting time,
  • setting individual goals for limiting sitting time, and
  • using prompts and cues to remind people to stop them sitting

All were also found to help reduce sitting time, even when used in isolation. In addition, effective interventions tended to educate people about the health benefits of reducing their sitting time.

The findings are primarily aimed at employers and public health officials trying to reduce sitting time in large populations, but research team leader Dr. Benjamin Gardner says they can also be used by individuals.

"The findings should also be of interest to anyone looking to improve their health by reducing their own sitting time in their day-to-day lives, as many of these interventions can be adopted on an individual level," Gardner said.

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