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In the last several years, study after damning study has called out the health risks of prolonged sitting. Yet despite broadly worded recommendations to restrict our sedentary behavior, there are still no official guidelines telling us exactly how much sitting is too much.

Given what’s practical for most people, we believe aiming to limit your sitting to six hours a day is a reasonable ask. As experts in movement, we think this number squares with how much sitting the body can tolerate before it begins to take a toll on mobility.

How well do you move after hunkering down in a chair for 10 to 12 hours? We wager that you feel stiff and clunky. You don’t need a study to tell you that a king-size dose of sitting is detrimental to your body.

Still, sitting is so fundamental to modern life that many people ignore the damage it does, let alone realize how many hours they spend in the same position day after day. If you’re one of these people, now is your chance to find out.

This assessment will take you through a 24-hour period during which you’ll note any time you sit in a chair, park yourself on a stool or bench or bed (while sitting, not lying down), or nestle your body into a sofa. We suggest doing the assessment on a typical weekday (weekdays are when most people spend a good share of the day sitting).

Two types of sitting get a pass: sitting or squatting on the floor and exercising while sitting. Cyclists, rowers, kayakers, and other exercisers who work out in a seated position don’t need to add that time to their sitting inventory.

The Test

From the time you get up in the morning to the time you hop into bed in the evening, track the time you spend sitting. This includes sitting at your desk, on your couch, in a car, at a café, while riding public transportation, and more. Again, there are only two exceptions: sitting or squatting on the floor and exercising in a seated position.

Your score is the number of hours you spent sitting during your assessment. Round minutes below 30 down and minutes above 30 up (for example, 7 hours 26 minutes is 7 hours; 7 hours 45 minutes is 8 hours).

If you’re surprised by how much you sit, you’re not alone. Some of the most well-trained athletes we know get a shock when they calculate their numbers. What’s important now is that you’re aware of it and can take steps — literal steps! — to avoid prolonged periods of sitting.

What your results mean:

This is what your score tells you about where you are and where you can strive to be.

  • 6 hours or less: We’re impressed! Unless you have a job that requires standing (and maybe you do), it’s not easy to hit this mark. Keep it up.
  • 7 to 9 hours: Depending on where you are in this range, we give you a B+ to a C+. If you’re at 9 hours, it may seem like a big leap to get down to 6, but our experience tells us that once you start spending more time out of a chair, change comes fairly easily. You’ll begin to want to sit less.
  • 10 to 12 hours: You earn a solid C-. You need to reformat your days substantially, but we’ve seen hundreds of people do it. So can you.
  • 13+ hours: We regret to say that you are failing in this one area. The most important thing for you to remember is that you don’t have to change overnight. It’s not only fine to gradually increase the time you spend on your feet rather than in a chair, but it’s also preferable.

When to retest:

How often should you retest? Daily. Tracking the hours you spend sitting each day can help you build awareness around your habits — and provide a jumping-off point to make changes. You might discover that certain factors keep you seated longer than what is recommended, and you might develop internal alerts to increase the amount of time you spend standing or moving.

Go Deeper

Sitting for long periods might be common, but it can undermine your health. Standing up, however, is a simple act that can infuse your day with beneficial movement.

Learn more at “The Vital Role Standing — Versus Sitting — Plays in Your Health“, from which this article was excerpted.

Kelly Starrett, DPT, and Juliet Starrett

Kelly Starrett, DPT, is a physical therapist and the coauthor of Built to Move, Becoming a Supple Leopard, Ready to Run, and Deskbound. He is also the cofounder of The Ready State, which offers daily guided mobility training and other resources to help athletes stay pain-free. Juliet Starrett is the coauthor of Built to Move and Deskbound, and cofounder and CEO of The Ready State.

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