Massachusetts Medical Society: Sitting Less, Moving More Can Make Major Health Differences

Sitting Less, Moving More Can Make Major Health Differences

Combatting “the New Smoking”


What if the difference between health and chronic illness was something as simple as a five-minute walk? Recent research suggests that sitting less and moving more throughout the day can make a major difference in overall health.

“Americans are engaging in sedentary behavior for 17 hours a day,” said Beth Frates, M.D., member of the MMS’s Committee on Nutrition and Physical Activity and a lifestyle medicine specialist. “Sitting is considered to be the new smoking.”

Sedentary behavior is associated with many diseases and disorders such as heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, depression, anxiety, and even some cancers such as colon and breast, she said. Recent research has even connected sitting with decreased metabolism, decreased HDL levels, and improved creativity, she added.

“Even if people are meeting the guidelines, they still need to be aware of the dangers of sitting,” said Dr. Frates. “Exercising a half-hour every day for five days a week does not give you permission to sit for extended periods during the rest of the day.” Long work days sitting, followed by long commutes, and time on social media contribute to this sedentary time, according to Dr. Frates. Physicians and their patients should find creative ways to build activity into their day, such as incorporating a standing or walking break every hour for a few minutes, she added. These activities will help to change body position, wake up the body and muscles, and allow for some movement each hour.

For references about sedentary behavior, and resources on increasing physical activity, visit

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