Sedentary Student: To Be Or Not To Be? | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Sedentary Student: To Be Or Not To Be?

Life&Style writer Charlotte Gill suggests some easy ways you can swap sitting down for standing up

Although we are supposed to be young and sprightly and full of beans, being active as a student is not always a walk in the park (or perhaps ‘a sit on the couch’ is more apt). Even if you play sports, go to the gym or exercise regularly, it is hard to get away from the whole ‘sitting down’ thing: in lectures, in seminars, while studying at home, while studying in the library, to relax on an evening, the list goes on. Adults spend more than 7 hours sitting down per day according to the NHS, which is not really surprising, despite the fact we know it can increase our risk of being overweight, obese, contracting type 2 diabetes, heart disease, blood sugar and blood pressure problems. All of this along with minor but uncomfortable consequences such as stiffness, muscle aches, and back and neck pain.

It is thought that 60 minutes of exercise can offset some of the effects of sitting a lot that day, but even so, exercising and then proceeding to sit for five hours in a row is not going to be good. Similarly, although 10,000 steps is a good daily goal, it is thought to be better to do this in four short bursts, for example, than the whole 10,000 in one go. Little and often, as they say. With revision season upon us and essay-writing mode well and truly activated, here are a few tips to get you sitting a little less and moving a little more:

  • If you know that a tutor is often a bit late, take a detour on the way to a lecture/seminar/meeting to get in a few more steps.
  • In a similar vein, walk the long way home or take an extended route through campus when you can -- this is a simple way to get in some more movement as you have to head in that direction anyway.
  • If you have something that can be done while walking, walk! For example, making a phone call to a friend or family member, listening to music, or listening to a podcast or audiobook. A perfect way to kill two birds with one stone in a busy day and get a bit of headspace away from everything else.
  • If you commute on public transport, stand up rather than sitting down as you can move about on your feet. In addition, get off a stop earlier or walk to the next stop along if you can.
  • Say no to escalators and lifts and take the stairs! If nothing else, it’ll make you feel smug.
  • Drink lots of water (bonus points for staying hydrated) and then you will need to get up to go to the toilet regularly.
  • It is unlikely an option for many but standing desks are sometimes used in offices: is there any way you could stand for a while when working?
  • When there is a break on TV or - let us be more realistic - your Netflix episode has finished, do a couple of laps of the room and shake yourself out or have a wander downstairs.
  • Plan things which involve movement if you know you find it hard or do not exercise regularly. This is much easier now the weather is getting nicer: swap a coffee shop stop with a friend for a walk around the park, or a cinema trip for a mooch around the shops.
  • Buddy up and take a lap of the library or walk around the block with a friend/housemate once an hour if you can. Set a reminder on your phone if you are likely to forget. This is a great way to break up and section your studying as well as fitting in some movement.
  • Similarly, if you are not focusing well, instead of sitting staring into space or reaching for your phone for the second social media scroll in 25 minutes (we’ve all been there), get up and have a walk around.
  • During a lunch break (especially after you have eaten) or a spare pocket of time in your day, go for a ten minute stroll - you will benefit from the movement, the fresh air, and the break in concentration and staring at screens will likely give you a boost afterwards.
  • If you are waiting for the kettle to boil or something to cook, don’t sit down but pace around the kitchen. If you are feeling particularly restless or full of energy, go wild and do some star jumps or have a dance around.
  • Finally, plan in some exercise. This is also a great break in between studying and revising and it will give you an endorphin hit and likely improve concentration. What’s not to love? Why not book into a class at a gym so you stick to it, or jog on an afternoon to get your limbs moving, or do a HIIT workout or yoga session in your room to stretch out - find something active that works for you!

Third year Modern Languages student currently living in Paris. Interested in fashion, fitness, languages and travel. I love reading and listening to podcasts and would count 'trying out cool cafés' as a hobby.


13th April 2018 at 9:00 am

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