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  • Marcia

State of My Self week 2: Sitting

This is week 2 of The State of My Self! You can review or catch up on week 1 here.

The first time I wore a Fitbit, I was pretty smug. I’m a Pilates instructor, after all. I don’t sit hardly at all while I’m working. And I considered myself ‘active’ – I wasn’t rocking a desk job and then parking it on the couch every night. 10,000 steps? Piece of cake. Or so I thought. I was taken aback to realize that while I wasn’t sitting, I wasn’t walking much either. So I was standing a lot, which isn’t quite the same thing as walking a lot. The Fitbit made me realize I was overestimating my activity, and made it an objective, quantifiable thing for me to see. This was very helpful!

And so when I came across a quiz that helped me do the same thing with sitting, I was intrigued (and a little hesitant). Our society is built around sitting, and almost always on furniture or in cars. It’s a little like trying to describe water to a fish – when you’re completely immersed and surrounded by something it’s almost impossible to see.

The quiz is from Nutritious Movement’s Macronutrient Pack (it was downloadable from the website as of last year, but I looked and looked and couldn’t find a link to it. It seems it’s not on the site right now) and so I’ll credit NM, and take the quiz!

The numbers not bold are my answers. So you'll replace those with your own!

All answers in minutes and relate to the average day

Commute time to and from work: 40 minutes

Commute time for kids to after-school activities: 0

Riding a bike: 0

Sitting at work: 120 minutes

Sitting eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner: 60 minutes

Watching TV/movies (30-60 minutes per show): 60 minutes

Using the internet or computer (not at work): 120 minutes

Other sitting time (reading, playing instruments, sewing, knitting, toileting, building models, etc): 120 minutes

Total minutes sitting (add all numbers above): 520

Calculate your sleep time: 420 minutes (7 hours) is the average amount of time most people sleep a day, but you can adjust this number up or down depending if you sleep, read, or laze in bed less or more.

Write your ‘bedtime’ minutes here: 420

Subtract the above number from 1440 (the total number of minutes in a day):

1440 – bedtime minutes = Amount of daily available ‘moving’ time.

1440 - _____420_________ = _______1020_________

This final value is the mount of waking time you have in a day; a period of time where you could be (and would be) moving through numerous body positions and loads if movement were still necessary for survival.

If you divide your total minutes sitting by your number of daily moving minutes, and multiply by 100, you will have the percentage of each day you spend in almost the exact same position.

You spend _______51_________ % of every day sitting.

So even though I stand quite a lot (or so it seems to me, based on the pattern of our sitting culture), I still spend more than half of my available waking time sitting.

Now sitting is not simply a single thing, though furniture and cars usually make it so. There are many ways to ‘mix it up’, to provide your body with different loads and stretches and squishes. For instance, when I am sitting at work to catch up on emails or do projects, I am usually sitting on the floor and stretching in a variety of ways. The same is true for my non-work internet and reading time. By varying the types of sitting I do, I can keep ‘moving’ even when it’s necessary to stay in one spot.

Of course I could (and do) spend some screen time standing. And I’ve become addicted to audiobooks so I can still scratch the insatiable itch for reading while doing something else like walking or cleaning or cooking. I also stack my reading time into my work commute time, thereby freeing up some minutes in my day for non-book activities.

Really, the important thing to realize is that our culture prioritizes sitting, and believes you can make up for all that sitting with 30-60 minutes of exercise. But when you look at the numbers, it just doesn’t work out. Even if you are going hard in those 30-60 minutes, it can’t possibly undo all those sitting hours. This means we have to know how much we’re sitting, and then look for opportunities to chip away at that number. It doesn’t mean more exercise, it means varying your movement!

Here’s some ideas to add in the new year, so that when we revisit this quiz we can celebrate our smaller sitting time:

  • Standing in meetings/trainings, or have a walking meeting

  • Creating a standing or sit/stand work station

  • Looking for the errands that are not far from you that you tend to drive to. Let’s walk those errands!

  • Setting a timer to remind yourself to stand up from whatever you’re doing and stretch. Maybe do a lap or two around the office, or the house, or around the block. These little breaks can really refresh your mind, decrease stiffness and pain, and they add up!

  • Getting a walk in on your lunch break

  • Taking phone calls while walking or some other activity

  • Audiobooks (my fave!)

Have other ideas? Share them! Let’s make 2018 movement rich!

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