Sitting less, key to health and well-being

People in Western countries today spend an average of 8 to 11 hours per day sitting. However, high levels of sedentary behavior are associated with serious physical and mental health problems, such as impaired cognitive function, cardiovascular diseases and all-cause mortality.

A team of researchers have pointed out in a new study, published in ‘Health Psychology Review’, they consider that to improve health and well-being, it is crucial that people feel less and interrupt their sessions sitting more frequently. Thus, after reviewing a large body of research, he has attempted to identify the determinants of sitting behavior, and to develop and test interventions to help people limit their sitting time.

These studies have provided valuable information about, for example, the different contexts in which people sit and have produced promising interventional techniques to change sitting behavior.

“A smart device that simply tells someone to stand up isn’t going to help develop strong, lasting habits that encourage people to sit less. The real trick is finding reasons.” to go from sitting to standing and vice versa more frequently,” says Dr Benjamin Gardner, co-author of the study from the University of Surrey.

“Our study argues that we must build strategies that make the reasons why people make the transition from sitting to standing more meaningful and find ways to do these behaviors as often as possible,” says this expert who recommends, for example At work, trying to get up to talk to a colleague, go for a snack, or set up standing meetings.

People make between 70 and 140 position changes a day; Furthermore, they can sit or stand for only a few seconds or for several hours. As a result, people’s sitting behavior varies greatly from day to day and from context to context. This variance is missed by the traditional approach to total daily sitting time.

The study recommends moving away from time-constrained solutions to address sitting and focus more on increasing the frequency of situations where people go from sitting to standing.

Most studies, whether focused on quantifying, understanding, predicting, or changing sitting, have focused on “sitting time.” However, the time spent sitting not a behavior, but a result of behavior. Due to this pervasive focus on sitting time, the exact behavior that underlies people’s sitting time, and which interventions should aim to change, remains unclear.

four strategies

The researchers suggest four specific intervention strategies to increase sit-to-stand transitions consistent with people’s daily goals. First, they propose that the core behaviors of interest are transitions from stand to sit and sit to stand. Second, they point to patterns of goal hierarchies since people rarely engage in these transitions for the explicit purpose of adopt a sitting or standing posture; these transitions are critical to accomplishing more meaningful goals.

Third, based on their framework, they provide suggestions for practitioners to design feasible, realistic and effective sitting behavior interventions. And, fourth, they recommend exposing the implications of standing longer.

‘Stop sitting more often’ might be a clearer and more feasible public health message than ‘sitting less’, which people often misinterpret as an endorsement of prolonged standing. “Encouraging people to reduce the time they spend sitting but to avoid standing for prolonged periods has been shown to confuse the general public,” the study warns.

In summary, both research and interventions on sitting behavior need to move away from their current focus on understanding sitting time and instead focus on understanding and/or changing transitions from standing to sitting and from sitting to standing. Specifically, interventions could focus on increasing the frequency of transitions from sitting to standing.

Regarding the second point that talks about seeking objectives, remember that the actions are carried out following routines with marked goals: “completing the act of ‘entering the office’ usually triggers ‘sitting at the desk’, completing ‘sitting at the desk’ usually triggers ‘open document’, and so on”. And in no case, even if they stand up, this posture supposes one of them, it is rather an act to which no attention is paid.

“Our framework offers two general pieces of advice for intervention designers. First, interventions should aim not to limit sitting time, but rather to increase the frequency of transitions from sitting to standing (and standing to sitting). Second, to achieve this goal, designers of interventions must consider the higher-order goals that these transitions serve,” they warn.

frequent transitions

To encourage frequent transitions from sitting to standing, interventions could focus on restructuring the environment to create possibilities that invite people to engage in frequent sit-to-stand transitions while pursuing ongoing high-priority goals. For example, height-adjustable desks, since they allow people to do their work standing up, laptops, garbage cans or printers away from the work table; coffee or snack machines in shared facilities, etc.

Secondly, advise task limits , that is, the moments between the completion of a task and the beginning of a new one, so that in those transitions one changes from sitting to standing posture. And when sit-to-stand transitions at task boundaries do not occur spontaneously and cannot be prompted, people can be trained to form habits that connect the completion of a specific task with a sit-to-stand transition.

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