Sit Less Every Day: Take Our 3-Week Challenge

This month's mission: Spend less time on your butt, and stand up for your health in just three weeks.

Long hours at a desk, in a car, or on a cozy couch are an enemy to your metabolism, muscles, and life span. Even if you work out, heavy sitting may put you at greater risk of developing diabetes or dying of heart disease or cancer, per a new study in Annals of Internal Medicine. "We haven't cracked the formula for how much light activity versus more traditional exercise we should do," says study co-author David Alter, MD. "But taking the 'move more' mentality more seriously is a good place to start."

The Action Plan

Give yourself points every time you complete one of that week's tasks. Try to rack up at least 15 points a week.

Week 1

Get on your feet: "Find out what your personal sitting traps or triggers are, and create reminders to stand or move around," suggests Nolan Peterson, a wellness exercise specialist at the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program.

Count your steps: Keep your smartphone or tracker on you all day to get a rough idea of how many steps you take. Whatever your personal best is, aim to log 1,000 more steps daily. [1 Point]

Wear comfy shoes to work: "You're not going to stand or walk around more if you don't have the means to do so," says celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak. [1 Point]

Set a timer: "Your computer mesmerizes you and you lose track of time. You need something to remind you when it's a good idea to make a postural change," says Alan Hedge, PhD, an ergonomics professor at Cornell University. Program your phone to vibrate every hour as a cue to stand or do laps for 10 minutes. [2 Points]

Switch to a standing desk: "I've found I'm more likely to move naturally into different positions when I use mine," says Peterson. To DIY your own, check out these standing desk ideas. [3 Points]

Week 2

Move it: Make some aspects of life less convenient, recommends Hedge.

Find excuses to move: Do away with the printer at your desk; at home, transfer your mugs to a cabinet away from the coffeemaker. [1 Point]

Pace during calls: Get in the habit of taking extra steps whenever you answer the phone. [1 Point]

Be a mom in motion: Stroll the sidelines instead of sitting on the bleachers at your kid's baseball game, or get out of the car and walk around at school pickup. [2 Points]

Keep the remote out of reach: During TV time, leave the clicker across the room. Hop up to hit mute during commercials. [2 Points]

Week 3

Up the burn: It's crucial to pair small pockets of movement with real exercise, says Dr. Alter, who's a cardiologist at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute.

Climb the stairs: "Going up uses three times the energy as going down," says Hedge. Walk up one to two flights whenever possible this week. [1 Point]

Work out at lunch: Bonus: Exercising during work hours for 2½ hours a week may maintain or boost productivity, per a 2011 study. [2 Points]

Sneak in some action: Schedule a walking, jogging, or even SoulCycling meeting instead of settling into conference-room chairs. [3 Points]

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