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News - 2nd February 2021

Get a boost by sitting less

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Dr Jason Wilson is a Lecturer in Physical Activity and Health at Ulster University. Here he helps us think about how we can spend less time sitting, and highlights some of the health benefits that regular movement can bring.


The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has unfortunately curtailed many of our usual activities, with current restrictions making it more difficult to get out-and-about.


Coupled with the cold winter months, this has led to many of us becoming more inclined to stay in our homes to keep safe and warm. Unfortunately, as well as leading to lower levels of exercise, another consequence of this is that many of us are likely to have increased our daily time spent sitting.


Maybe you made it your #parkrunresolution to move a little bit more, which is a fantastic way of combating some of the ill effects of more sedentary behaviour.


So why should we all aim to sit a little less, and move a little more?


Research has shown that those who spend more of their day sitting are more likely to report being in “poor health” versus “good health”(.1)


In addition, more time spent in prolonged sitting (i.e. over 60 minutes at a time) is likely to have a negative impact on our ability to do everyday activities such as brisk walking and getting up from a chair (.2)


This means that sitting too much for prolonged periods could leave us feeling lethargic and less motivated to be active.


However, individuals who have reduced their sitting time while taking part in research studies have highlighted benefits such as improved stamina, reduced stiffness and fatigue as well as better mood and mental health (.3)


These are obviously things which can give us that little boost to get out for a walk, jog or run. However, the good thing is that once we begin to regularly complete these activities, maybe as part of the parkrun Resolution and beyond, these can help to offset some of the negative health impacts of sitting too much (.4)


The next question is, how can we sit less in our everyday lives?


Completing the following exercises every so often throughout the day could be a good way to reduce and break up your sitting time and which could be incorporated into your daily routine.


One or more of these exercises could be completed three or four times per day either on the spot or along a small corridor. Each exercise could be completed for 20-30 seconds at a time and repeated 2-3 times on each occasion:


  • Heel flicks: Alternating your standing leg, flick each heel towards your bottom repeatedly.
  • Marching: Aim to get your knees and arms nice and high.
  • Standing push-ups: Lean forward against a well-fixed table / kitchen-counter, keep your body straight and bend your elbows.


These simple exercises take little time to complete and should give you the little boost you need to feel more energetic and put you in a better frame of mind to go outside and move a little bit more, maybe for a walk, jog or run.


Of course,  research is not saying that we should never sit down, but just that a small reduction in the amount we sit would go a long way to improving our health. So if you haven’t yet made a parkrun Resolution, or feel like you need a bit of a boost, then why not think about sitting a little bit less each day, and see how much better you feel!


Keep up the good work and remember that every movement counts.


Dr Jason Wilson

Lecturer in Physical Activity and Health

Ulster University



  1. Wilson JJ, Blackburn NE, O’Reilly R, et al. (2019). Association of objective sedentary behaviour and self-rated health in English older adults. BMC Research Notes. 12:12.
  2. Wilson JJ, McMullan I, Blackburn NE, et al. (2021). Associations of sedentary behavior bouts with community‐dwelling older adults’ physical function. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports. 31:153–162.
  3. Rawlings GH, Williams RK, Clarke DJ, et al. (2019). Exploring adults’ experiences of sedentary behaviour and participation in non-workplace interventions designed to reduce sedentary behaviour: a thematic synthesis of qualitative studies. BMC Public Health. 19:1099.
  4. Ekelund U, Tarp J, Steene-Johannessen J, et al. (2019). Dose-response associations between accelerometry measured physical activity and sedentary time and all cause mortality: systematic review and harmonised meta-analysis. British Medical Journal. 366:l4570.

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