Cut your screen time

Last reviewed: February 2011

"When we're sitting, we are burning almost as few calories as we do when we're sleeping," said Marc T. Hamilton, Ph.D., a professor at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La. "Sitting too much is hazardous to your health in a different way than exercising too little."

Hamilton is a researcher in the new field of inactivity physiology, the study of what happens when we're, well, just sitting there. Research shows that the more you sit, the higher your risk of weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. That seems to be true even for people who get the prescribed 150 minutes a week of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.

"Standing upright washing dishes, getting dressed, or filing papers isn't exercise by anybody's standard," Hamilton said. "Yet these activities double your metabolic rate compared to sitting. If you can find 6 or 7 more hours a week to spend standing instead of sitting, you've done something good for yourself."

Sitting in front of a computer or television is one of the least active things most of us do. Research has shown that the more screen time we indulge in, the fatter we tend to be. And when we cut down our screen time, we tend to stand up and move around. A November 2010 Consumer Reports survey of 1,234 Americans found that those who spend 5 or more hours sitting during a typical weekday log less time in everyday activity. (For more survey results see, Are we fooling ourselves?)

So look for chances to stand up and move around in the course of your day. And see whether you can cut back your daily screen time.