Can you limit your sitting and sleeping to just 23.5 hrs per day?

For over 3 years now (where does the time go!?), Travis and I have been discussing a variety of topics on Obesity Panacea. While some topics appear only once, partly due to our personal biases regarding their relative importance, other topics come up again and again. For instance, there has been no shortage of discussions on the benefits of physical activity and/or the hazards of being sedentary. We repeat this message over and over again simply because we strongly believe in its implications, and because we are constantly reminded that the majority of our society does not. But sometimes words aren’t enough. Sometimes it takes a very simple, yet highly effective YouTube video to get the message across.

This past weekend, my partner, Marina, showed me a under 10-min video created by Dr. Mike Evans from the Health Design Lab at the University of Toronto that absolutely blew my mind.

In asking the simple question: “Can you limit your sitting and sleeping to just 23.5 hrs per day?”, this video nails the importance of physical activity in a manner that can appeal to everyone. Please watch it, show it to your friends and colleagues, and forward it to anyone who you think would benefit from the message. The last time I was this excited about a video was when we posted the “Piano Stairs Experiment” some time ago.



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17 Responses to Can you limit your sitting and sleeping to just 23.5 hrs per day?

  1. Chris says:

    So what do you think about the recent standing desk trend? I recently got one for work and have enjoyed it a lot. I go from sitting to standing probably 3 or 4 times a day. Are there risks associated with them or am I reducing my sitting/sleeping time sufficiently to gain the described benefits?

    • Travis says:

      Great question.

      I’m a big fan of these as well (I use one when I work from home). At the time being, we can only really say that it’s plausible that these will reduce the risk of chronic disease, but it’s too soon to tell for certain. However, this is would not be because of increasing your level of physical activity, but simply by reducing the amount of sitting. In a perfect world everyone would get plenty of physical activity AND minimize their time spent sitting, since both are independently associated with chronic disease.

  2. This is a great video!! Thanks so much for sharing it.

    I am in the “obese+exercise” category, but becoming less obese every day. I have realized all the benefits mentioned in the video, and one not mentioned but probably true for most: a greater sense of well being and self-esteem.

    Watching the video, I did come to the realization that in the winter my “screen time” increases so now I will be backing it down again!

    I always enjoy your blog; it’s very informative.

    • Thanks for the comment, Dreena! I agree that the psychological aspect is an often overlooked one. I always feel much more positive after I get my activity in. Winter is a tough season for all of us. In addition to an increase in sedentary time, I often find I also start craving more calorie dense foods. Thankfully, I am skipping winter all together by living in the southern hemisphere:)

  3. Johan says:

    I have a question not directly related to the video but inspired by it.

    Being a bit of a quant I like to quantify things and so I wonder if there is any simple way to estimate my level of sedentaryness on a day by day basis?

    • Travis Saunders, MSc, CEP says:

      The best tool is an accelerometer, which will run you somewhere between $300-500. This directly measures movement, so it’s a pretty accurate way to assess sedentary time. There may also be smart phone apps that could do the same thing (smartphones have pretty good accelerometers in them) but I’m not certain if those apps exist yet or not.

      The other low-tech (and less accurate) method is to simply keep a log of how much time you spend sitting on a regular basis.

  4. Andreas Johansson says:

    In a perfect world everyone would get plenty of physical activity AND minimize their time spent sitting, since both are independently associated with chronic disease.

    Where does that leave, say, riding a bicycle? Good for you because of the exercise, bad for you because of the sitting?

    • @Andreas – if possible, bicyclists should try to find opportunities, such as hill climbs, to get off the saddle.

      Thank you Peter for the entertaining and informative video!

    • Travis Saunders, MSc, CEP says:

      Good question – sitting is only bad since it is generally associated with very low energy expenditure and very little muscle activation. It seems that when skeletal muscle goes for several hours without contracting (e.g. sitting in an office chair or on the couch), there are metabolic changes that result in increased metabolic risk, even if the person is still getting physical activity at some other point in the day. That’s the type of sitting that’s problematic.

      Cycling and other forms of seated exercise aren’t a problem since you are still engaging lots of muscles.

  5. Carol Brown says:

    Excellent video – I’ve already shared it with several friends.

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