Bonus: it only takes about 30 seconds!

Even pre-pandemic, the average American was sitting a lot. But the stay-at-home orders, gym closings—and TBH, the stress of the uncertainty of it all—caused many of us to rack up even more sedentary time.

Be it on the couch while bingeing Bridgerton or in our work-from-home chairs, the usually active members of the 3,000 Americans involved in a study published in September 2020 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health reported sitting 32% more than they did before the pandemic. (Their typically inactive peers stayed about the same.)

All of this inactive time isn't just bad for our backs and our step count for the day, it also puts us at a higher risk for early death. This is especially concerning if that sedentary time is prolonged and uninterrupted, according to an October 2017 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

While most gyms have reopened, these pandemic sitting habits can be tough to break—especially as the country begins to reopen and we're all getting back to traveling, socializing and being far away from our exercise gear.

But fascinating new research in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise hints that starting small may have a big impact. While the study was very brief (one day) and small (23 participants), the scientists found that exercise "snacks" of climbing three flights of stairs every hour can lower blood sugar and fatty acid levels in adults with overweight or obesity. The "healthy" weight participants showed no significant change in biometrics.

Focused young businesswoman using a laptop at her office desk
Credit: Adobe Stock / mavoimages

Despite this study's limitations in terms of scope, it hints at the fact that investing about 15 to 30 seconds per hour, the average time it took the participants to climb three flights of stairs, might be beneficial to counteract the effects of sitting. And it certainly can't hurt; especially if you're back at an office that has stairs, live in a home or apartment building with some, or live near an outdoor space with a few accessible flights!

No stairs? No problem. A similar strategy of exercise "snacks" can be infused into your routine, say, by walking a lap around the building, doing 25 squats or 25 jumping jacks (the latter two are a couple of the 6 best at-home exercises, according to a personal trainer).

To up the ante with your workday wellness plan, prep one of these 59 cheap and healthy lunch ideas for work and consider investing in and filling up this water bottle that glows to remind you to drink more water.