30 Ways to Break a Sitting Streak
Combat the negative effects of sitting to keep your body stronger and healthier
Boosting your health may be as easy as getting up more often. Sitting for long periods increases your risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and early death. But breaking up sedentary time with light activity helps reduce those risks—while netting you stronger muscles and a higher daily calorie burn. “Being more active will also improve your insulin sensitivity and may help reduce LDL [‘bad’] cholesterol,” says Carla Cox, PhD, RD, CDE, a spokesperson for the American Association of Diabetes Educators.
The American Diabetes Association’s 2019 Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes recommends that everyone break up bouts of sitting with brief activity every 30 minutes but notes that mini exercise bursts may be particularly beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes. One study found that performing three minutes of movement every half hour improved blood glucose levels in adults with type 2. (The effect has not been studied in adults with type 1.)
To remind you to regularly get out of your seat, set an alarm on your phone for every half hour. Then do three—or more—of the following moves for one minute each. Ready, set, stand!
Join the Resistance
For the exercises that require weights, use 2- to 5-pound dumbbells. No gear? Try soup cans or water bottles instead.
Check with your health care provider before starting or changing your exercise plan.
Play your favorite up-tempo song and boogie. Tip: The twist is a killer total-body workout.
2. Upright Row
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Hold a weight in each hand and rest your hands against the front of your thighs. Pull the weights up toward your chin, letting your elbows wing out to either side. Return to the starting position.
3. Foot Roll
Take off your shoes and stand with the arch of your right foot on a tennis ball. Move your foot forward and backward. Continue for 30 seconds, then repeat with your left foot.
4. Play With Your Pup
Fetch is an easy way to squeeze in more daily activity for you and your pooch.
Stand with your right side next to a chair or table and place your right hand on top of it. Take a big step back with your left leg. Bend your knees until your right thigh is parallel to the floor. Rise up and down for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
6. Lateral Raise
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and arms by your sides; hold a weight in each hand. Lift your arms to your sides so that your body forms a T shape. Lower them to the starting position.
7. Lap It Up
Any place can be a fitness track. Simply walk around your office or home.
8. Shoulder Roll
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and arms at your sides. Raise your shoulders toward your ears and slowly rotate them in a circle back, down, and forward. Continue for 30 seconds, then repeat in the opposite direction.
9. Practice Your Form
Grab your tennis racket or golf club and work on your swing.
Make like a boxer and stand with your elbows bent and hands in fists. Extend your right arm, punching straight out in front of you; return to the starting position and punch with your left arm. Continue, alternating arms.
11. Calf Raise
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, arms by your sides and palms facing your thighs. Hold a weight in each hand. Lift your heels, shifting your weight to the balls of your feet. Hold for one count, then lower your heels and repeat.
12. Tidy Up
Vacuum, empty the dishwasher, organize a drawer—cleaning counts as moving!
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Bend forward, placing your hands on the floor (it’s OK if your knees are bent). Walk your hands forward until you reach a push-up position. Walk your hands back and return to the starting position.
14. Have a Ball
Stand up and toss a tennis ball (an orange works too) from hand to hand. Feeling coordinated? Add another ball and juggle.
15. Shoulder Press
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and raise your arms out to the sides at shoulder height, holding a weight in each hand. Bend your elbows 90 degrees, palms facing forward, so that your arms look like a goal post. Extend your arms overhead, pressing the weights upward. Bend your elbows to return to the starting position.
16. Triceps Extension
With a dumbbell clasped between both hands, fully extend your arms overhead. Keeping your upper arms close to your ears, bend your elbows, lowering the weight behind your head. Extend your arms to the starting position.
17. Tightrope Walk
Stand with one foot directly in front of the other as if you were on a balance beam or tightrope. Keep your arms at your sides as you walk forward along an imaginary straight line as far as you can without losing form, then turn around and walk in the opposite direction.
18. Hammer Curl
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, arms by your sides, and a weight in each hand; your palms should face your thighs. Bend your elbows, curling the weights toward your shoulders. Return to the starting position.
19. Serve a Platter
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Bend your arms at a 90-degree angle, forearms parallel to the floor and palms facing the ceiling (as if you were holding a platter). Slowly extend your arms as you lift them to shoulder height in front of you, and then slowly return them to the starting position.
20. Just Breathe
Stand up and inhale for five counts as you raise your arms overhead. Then exhale for five counts as you lower your arms. Repeat.
21. Make a Playdate
Instead of watching from the sidelines, get up and play with your kids or grandkids. Extra points for pushing a swing or giving piggyback rides!
22. Side Shuffle
Stand with your feet together and arms at your sides. Take a big step to the right with your right foot, then bring your left foot to meet it. Repeat, this time moving to the left. Continue, alternating sides. Pick up the pace to increase the challenge.
Walk in place, lifting knees as high as you can.
24. Plank Tap
Get into an incline push-up position with your hands shoulder-width apart on the seat of a sturdy chair or the edge of a counter. Extend your legs behind you, feet hip-width apart. Touch your left shoulder with your right hand, then return your hand to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side. Continue, alternating sides.
25. Dead Lift
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, arms by your sides and a weight in each hand. Bend your knees and fold forward at your hips until your back is nearly parallel to the floor, then rise up to the starting position.
26. Perform a Plié
Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart, toes pointed out 45 degrees, and a hand resting on a table or counter. Keep your shoulders aligned over your hips as you bend your knees out to the sides until your thighs are nearly parallel to the floor, then rise up.
27. Take Flight
Walk up and down a flight of stairs. To increase the cardio challenge, pick up your pace.
28. Balance Reach
Stand with your feet together and your arms at your sides. Bend your right knee so your right foot is raised off the floor behind you. Keeping your right foot raised, slowly lift your arms overhead, bringing your palms together. Lower your arms to your sides, then repeat the arm raise while balancing on the same foot. After 30 seconds, switch and repeat with your left foot lifted.
Pretend you’re holding a rope and jump. Count how many hops you can do in a minute so you can try to beat your best time in the future.
30. Step Up
Stand at the bottom of a staircase; place your hands on an adjacent wall or handrail for support. Step up with your right foot, then follow with your left. Step down in the same order. Continue for 30 seconds, then repeat starting with your left foot.
Sources: Katy Bowman, MS, a biomechanist and the author of Dynamic Aging: Simple Exercises for Whole-Body Mobility; Carla Cox, PhD, RD, CDE, a spokesperson for the American Association of Diabetes Educators; Julie Driver, a certified Pilates instructor and educator; Richard Peng, MS, MBA, RCEP, CDE, a clinical exercise physiologist and certified diabetes educator with HealthCare Partners Medical Group in Los Angeles and author of Exercise Manual: An Exercise Guide for Adults With Diabetes; Risa Sheppard, a master Pilates instructor and owner of The Sheppard Method Pilates in Los Angeles; Brian Zehetner, MS, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and the director of health and fitness for Planet Fitness