Sitting is the New Smoking: Here’s How You Can Steal Opportunities for Movement

As a yoga instructor with several years of experience, I frequently come across students who give the I-have-no-time excuse for not working out and not being active. Usually the excuse is proffered by those who are discontinuing the class or who don’t want to take it at all. I do appreciate that we all have various pressures on our time and taking an hour out for a yoga class and then some more time for the trip to and fro can be difficult. However, it is possible to be more active each day; to incorporate exercise into a daily routine without devoting too much time to it.

Sitting is dangerous

According to some, sitting is the new smoking; it is so bad for health that it could lead to premature death. Many of us who have sedentary jobs that require sitting for long periods each day are at increased risk of heart disease, bone problems, musculoskeletal diseases, diabetes, and even degenerative diseases such as dementia. The body’s metabolism slows down, blood circulation is impeded. Blood pressure and blood sugar rise.

However the good news is that it is continuous sitting that is really bad for us. Those who stand or move around frequently to break up those long periods of being seated may benefit greatly. A 2015 study reported in the European Heart Journal found that stepping and/or standing could be beneficial to metabolic and heart health. The implication there is that making small changes to the work day and the way we work could help. Small amounts of activity adds up — even two or three minute bursts several times a day can be as effective as half an hour of continuous activity.

Tips to make your day more active

Like I said, everything counts. So add these tweaks to your day to make it more active overall:

Take the stairs — Ditch the lift, eschew the escalators. Take the stairs instead. You get a nice, heart pounding workout, it’s less crowded and often it is a lot quicker than waiting for the lift and then stopping at each floor.

Take public transport instead of your car — Not only is this the green thing to do, it involves more physical activity. You have to walk to the bus or train station and then to office from the station. Weather / pollution / traffic permitting, you can even cycle to work! If even that is not possible, park a little further away from office so you can walk the rest of the way there.

Run errands on foot — If you have to fetch milk or bread from the nearby shop, don’t take your car. Walk instead. If you’re in a hurry, cycle there and back.

Do your own chores — Sweeping, swabbing, hanging out the washing, cooking, gardening, car cleaning, are good exercise. They make you squat, move around your limbs, do some lifting and involve many muscle groups. Do house chores at least once a week or whenever the domestic help skips a day or two.

Play with kids — This is not only good exercise, it is great to bond with kids and spend quality time with them. Play cricket, frisbee or hopscotch with your kids. If they are into skipping do some of that as well; skipping is excellent, effective exercise.

Read the newspaper on the stationary bike — If you have a gym implement at home, don’t use it just to hang stuff on. Use it! Get a nice workout on the stationary bike while you read the newspaper or get your information on the phone. If you have a stepper, cross trainer or weights, use those while you watch TV.

Walk in office — Don’t ring for the peon to fetch and carry for you. If you need something from the filing room get up and get it yourself. If you need a cup of tea, fetch it yourself. If you have to pick up or send a document across to a colleague, don’t email it. Go over and do it in person. If you have to ask something over the intercom or phone, go over and have a physical chat.

Go window shopping — A mall with its climate controlled interiors and attractive window displays is a great place to take a walk! If you want, leave your wallet behind at home so you’re not tempted to shop.

Make active phone calls — Whenever you attend to a call, get up and walk around. There is no reason to remain seated while you’re on the phone!

Yoga at your desk — Whenever you get a chance, do some stretches with your arms above your head. Do ankle rotations, shoulder rotations and twist at the waist to get some nice stretches without even getting up. The seated crescent moon pose (ardh chandrasan), chair pigeon pose (ekapada rajakapotasana), the desk chaturanga asan, upward dog pose (Urdhva mukha svanasana) using your desk, the seated backbend, and the forward bend (bringing your head down towards your knees) can all be done right at your desk whenever you have a few minutes to spare.

For more information about my regular morning yoga classes, visit