Ways to Reduce Sedentary Behavior | sports manitoba (2023)

By Sam Cortés, Communications Coordinator

In recent years you may have felt more confined indoors than usual, especially during cold winters.

However, we can avoid sedentary behaviors by staying active indoors.

Sedentary behavior refers to physically inactive behavior that requires very little energy. We can be sedentary by sitting or lying down for long periods (Diamond & Byrd, 2020), and desk jobs and sexy sofas can immobilize us without even realizing it.

Breaking our sedentary and active days can have multiple benefits and last as little as two minutes (Villar, 2021).

The benefits of reducing physical inactivity

Improving immune function
More light physical activity can also help improve our immune function! The right level of physical activity is linked to a stronger immune response to disease (Shephard, 1998). A more responsive immune system can be helpful, especially during flu season.

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Reduce the risk of illness
Reducing sedentary behavior is also a great way to maintain or improve your health. You can lower your risk of obesity, various types of cancer, heart disease and other chronic diseases by getting up and moving more often (Diamond & Bird, 2020; Public Health Agency of Canada, 2018).

Improve insulin sensitivity
Reducing sedentary behavior and increasing light physical activity may help improve our insulin sensitivity (Yates et al., 2015). Insulin is the hormone that helps our body control the amount of sugar in the blood. Healthier blood sugar levels can help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes (Biswas et al., 2015).

Reduces joint and muscle pain
Disrupting your workday can also reduce pain and fatigue in muscles and joints affected by prolonged sitting (Dzakpasu et al., 2021). Try to get up for two minutes every 20 minutes that you work, read, or watch TV.

What is the solution?

The solution to reducing sedentary lifestyle is simple: get up and move! And it doesn't have to be too strenuous — even light physical activity like climbing stairs, doing chores, or walking the block can make a big difference.

Stretching can also be viewed as a light physical activity.jimprove your mobility. Here are some examples of stretches you can do. If possible, try to move for 2 minutes for every 20 minutes of sedentary activity (Villar, 2021). Sitting for more than 20 minutes does not cause serious problems, but getting up frequently can help (Slater et al., 2019).

Ways to Reduce Sedentary Behavior | sports manitoba (1)breast stretchusing a wall. This is a useful stretch to relax the pecs that you contracted while hunched over a computer.

Ways to Reduce Sedentary Behavior | sports manitoba (2)

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Quad-Stretchwhile holding on to a chair. This stretch targets the quadriceps (muscles at the front of the thigh). Keep the knee straight down towards the floor.

Ways to Reduce Sedentary Behavior | sports manitoba (3)

child pose. This relaxing pose will help stretch your back and hips.

Ways to Reduce Sedentary Behavior | sports manitoba (4)

steps. Walking up and down stairs is a great way to get the blood flowing after sitting for a while.

How will we do that?

The concept of moving more is simple but difficult to implement. Our jobs or hobbies can make us forget about time or the strain on our muscles.

Try to write down how long you stay in the same position; you would be surprised! However, there are several strategies to take care of our health.

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For example, we can remind ourselves to wake up by setting alarms on our phones or putting sticky notes in front of us. We can also use pedometers on our phones to see if we're taking enough breaks. Try generating new ideas and changing your surroundings to get more exercise throughout the day (Gardner et al., 2015; Nguyen et al., 2020).

Here's an example you can try:

09:00- Work
9:20 a.m. M– Go and make coffee
9:22 a.m. M- Work
9:45- Make work calls on the go
10:00 A.M- Work
10:20- Check email
10:23 a.m- Work

We can all use the simple formula of two minutes of light physical activity for 20 minutes of sedentary behavior to lead a healthier lifestyle. Light physical activity can be done without strenuous exertion or change in schedule. We just need to be a little health conscious to reap the benefits of reducing sedentary behavior!


Biswas, A., Oh, P.I., Faulkner, G.E., Bajaj, R.R., Silver, M.A., Mitchell, M.S. e Alter, D.A. (2015).Sedentary time and its association with the risk of disease incidence, mortality, and hospitalization in adults. Annals of Internal Medicine, 162(2), 123-132.https://doi.org/10.7326/m14-1651

Diamond R & Byrd E (2020). Defending Health: Improving Mental Wellbeing During COVID-19 Isolation by Reducing Sedentary Behaviors.Diary of Mood Disorders,277, 232–234.https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2020.07.137

Dzakpasu, F.Q., Carver, A., Brakenridge, C.J., Cicuttini, F., Urquhart, D.M., Owen, N., & Dunstan, D.W. (2021). Musculoskeletal pain and sedentary behavior in occupational and non-occupational settings: a systematic review with meta-analysis. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 18(1).https://doi.org/10.1186/s12966-021-01191-y

Gardner, B., Smith, L., Lorencatto, F., Hamer, M., & Biddle, S.J.H. (2015). How to reduce sitting time? An overview of behavior change strategies used in interventions to reduce physical inactivity in adults.Health Psychology Review,10(1), 89–112.https://doi.org/10.1080/17437199.2015.1082146

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Katzmarzyk, P.T., Church, TS, Craig, CL & Bouchard, C. (2009). sedentary time and all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise, 41(5), 998–1005.https://doi.org/10.1249/mss.0b013e3181930355

Nguyen P, Le LK, Nguyen D, Gao L, Dunstan DW & Moodie M (2020). The effectiveness of interventions in sedentary behavior on sedentary and screen time in children and adults: an overview of systematic reviews.International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity,17(1).https://doi.org/10.1186/s12966-020-01009-3

Public Health Agency of Canada. (2018, June 28).What is sedentary behavior and how do you measure it?Government of Canada. Retrieved January 25, 2022 fromhttps://health-infobase.canada.ca/datalab/sedentary-measurement-blog.html

Schmid D, Ricci C, Baumeister SE. & Leitzmann, M.F. (2016). Substitution of sedentary time for physical activity in relation to mortality.Medicine and science in sport and movement,48(7), 1312–1319.https://doi.org/10.1249/mss.0000000000000913

Shepherd, R.J. (1998). Exercise-induced immune changes in an adverse environment.Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology,76(5), 539-546.https://doi.org/10.1139/y98-046

Slater, D., Korakakis, V., O'Sullivan, P., Nolan, D., and O'Sullivan, K. (2019). “Sit Up”: Time for a reassessment.Journal of orthopedics and sports physiotherapy,49(8), 562–564.https://doi.org/10.2519/jospt.2019.0610

Villar, R. (2021, September). Lifestyle and Health Behaviors Part 2. Lecture, Winnipeg; University of Manitoba.

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Yates T, Henson J, Edwardson C, Dunstan D, Bodicoat DH, Khunti K, and Davies MJ. (2015). Objectively measured sedentary time and associations with insulin sensitivity: importance of redistribution from sedentary time to physical activity. Preventive Medicine, 76, 79-83.https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ypmed.2015.04.005


1. 24 Hour Movement Guidelines
(Faculty of Kinesiology and Recreation Management)
2. Tackling the Pillars of Health COVID 19 Webinar Series #4 Physical Activity
(The Wellness Institute)
3. Manitoba's Pandemic: What went wrong and how do we make things right again?
4. How Stress Affects Your Health and What You Can Do About It
(Reh-Fit Centre)
5. Diabetes knowledge mobilization 1
(Western University)
6. Activity Exercise & Kidney Care Clinic Patients
(BC Renal)


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