Sedentary Behaviour

What is sedentary behaviour?

  • Groups of behaviours performed whilst sitting or reclining during waking hours
  • Characterised by the low levels of energy required to perform them.


Sedentary behaviour refers to a group of behaviours which are performed whilst sitting, reclining or lying down.  These behaviours are all characterised by the low levels of energy required to perform them.  The low levels of energy allow us to differentiate between other behaviours which are performed whilst sitting but are not classed as sedentary behaviour, such as rowing, using a weight machine.

Much of the population may find themselves engaging in more and more sedentary pursuits due to the environment encouraging these sorts of behaviours.  You may feel like you cannot do your job properly or feel like you won’t get all your work done if you are not sat at your computer all day.  After a long day at work, you may feel like all you want to do is relax in front of the television.  We all seem to have such little free time that we feel like we need to take the car everywhere, even on very short journeys, just to save time.  These feelings are extremely common and therefore demonstrate the most frequently engaged in sedentary behaviours; sitting and working/playing at a computer, watching television and sitting during motorised transport.

How sedentary are we?

Generally, sedentary behaviour now occupies between 60-70% of people’s total waking hour. Typically in office workers this is slighty higher at 65-75% of people’s total waking hours. The majority of the rest of the day consists of light activity (20-30%), whilst only the remaining 5-10% of people’s day consists of vigorous activity. 

Many of us try and offset the damage we do to our bodies from long bouts of inactivity with regular exercise.  Everyone should exercise; you experience a wealth of health benefits from getting active, enjoying regular movement which gets your heart pumping.  However, the bad news is that regular exercise does not protect you from the damage being done to your body with prolonged sitting.  Studies have shown that even those who meet the government guidelines of 150 minutes/week of moderate activity but still spend extended periods of time sitting for the rest of the day are still at an increased risk of disease.

Why is sitting bad for me?

Sitting for long perios of time can have serious deleterious effects on your body. See our health risks page for more information.

Top Tips

  • Use a height-adjustable workstation
  • Stand while using the telephone
  • Active emails – walk to see a colleague
  • Stand during meetings
  • Leave your desk over lunch time
  • Don’t collect printing all in one go
  • Use a communal rubbish bin that you have to walk to
  • Stand for 5 minutes every 30 minutes
  • Plan to move more around the house e.g. during adverts

Health Risks

Prolonged sitting has many negative health consequences, including increased hear disease and diabetes risk.

Read more

How to use your standing desk

If you’ve just received a new height-adjustable desk, here’s some tips on how to use it.

Read more