What's the Worst Time of Day for Sitting Too Much?

Fitbit Finds the Times of Day and Ages at Which We are More Sedentary

Fitbit Alta
Fitbit Alta. Fitbit

Prolonged sitting is a risk factor for heart disease, even if you exercise, according to studies. Now that so many people are wearing activity trackers, Fitbit looked at anonymous aggregated data from over a million users to see who sits the most and when. It is enlightening.

The Worst Times of Day for Being Sedentary

Fitbit's data showed three times of day were the most likely to find you sitting or slumped at your desk.

  • Afternoon from 2 pm - 3 pm
  • After-coffee/before lunch - prime work/meeting time of 10:30 - 11 am
  • After work and after dinner, specifically from 7:30-8:30 pm.
  • 10 Tips to Stop Sitting Still: If you know when you are the most likely to be inactive, you can literally take these steps.

Work and Sit More, Retire and Sit Less

The stereotype is that you retire to your armchair, but Baby Boomers never did like to be conventional. Total sedentary time decreases after age 55 and right around retirement age from ages 58-66, people sit less.

This reflects on what happens when you enter the workforce. The Fitbit data found that people from age 20 to 25 had their total sitting time go up an hour. Sitting time continues to increase by 30 minutes from age 24 to 30 and up another 30 minutes between the ages of 30 and 55. That's a total of two more hours of sitting compared with their school-age years. This is concerning because one study found that for each hour of sitting, heart disease risks rise 14%

Which Countries Sit the Most?

Oddly enough, it is in Spain that people are the least inactive during the workday, even though many still observe siesta in the afternoon.

They are inactive for only 5 hours, 2 minutes before 6 pm, which is 45 minutes less than the average for the USA and China. It could be that a siesta break from sedentary work is what keeps them moving. Combined with a tradition of going for an evening walk, paseo, it could be that Spain is ahead of the game for reducing sedentary time.

Hours of Inactive Time Before 6 pm by Country - Fitbit Data

  • US: 5:47
  • China: 5:45
  • New Zealand: 5:35
  • UK: 5:29
  • Canada: 5:25
  • India: 5:23
  • France: 5:15
  • Italy: 5:12
  • Australia: 5:10
  • Spain: 5:02

Get Move Reminders and Set Goals to Reduce Sedentary Time

The Fitbit Alta is the first in the Fitbit line to track sitting time and has vibrating Move Reminders. How does it stack up with other inactivity-tracking fitness bands?

Devices that have vibrating alerts are the best to make you aware you have been sitting too long. If you haven't yet moved 250 steps in the hour, the Fitbit Alta vibrates at 50 minutes on the hour and has a scrolling message telling you how many more steps you need to achieve to "win the hour." Once you achieve your remaining steps, you get another vibration and a congratulatory scrolling message.

It takes about two to three minutes to walk 250 steps, and they don't have to be continuous.

Other trackers with tactile (vibrating, buzzing or tapping) inactivity alerts include the Jawbone UP2 and UP3, Apple Watch, Garmin vivosmart, Misfit Shine 2 and LifeTrack. Some allow you to set the inactive period length to be shorter or longer than one hour. Most allow you to set the period of the day where the alerts are active, so you aren't being alerted while sleeping.

Goals and Achievements to Reduce Sitting Time

Fitbit made a smart move with Alta to include Hourly Activity as a goal it tracks. You set the period each day and see your achievement hour by hour. You can spot which hours you are most likely to be inactive on a weekly grid. On the grid, a perfect day with movement all hours is highlighted, which is very motivational. You want to see all of the days lit up in that way. The grid display can help you make an effort at the times of day that you are most likely to be inactive.

Other trackers, including the Apple Watch and Basis Peak also have goals for reducing sitting time and moving each hour. These are important for motivating change, beyond just being reminded to move. Having a Perfect Week award for the Stand goal with the Apple Watch and a badge from Basis for the anti-sitting goal achievement may be simplistic, but it works.

Finding Your Worst Time of Day for Sitting - and Doing Something About It

The Alta data can help you spot when you are most likely to be inactive and to track your efforts to improve. The Fitbit app shows your longest stationary period of the day, a 30-day average and average by day of the week. Total active and sedentary time (over 10 minutes sitting) is noted. These are stats you can use to work on being more active on specific days and times.


Fitbit personal communication, 3/17/2016.

Aviroop Biswas, BSc; Paul I. Oh, MD, MSc; Guy E. Faulkner, PhD; Ravi R. Bajaj, MD; Michael A. Silver, BSc; Marc S. Mitchell, MSc; and David A. Alter, MD, PhD. "Sedentary Time and Its Association With Risk for Disease Incidence, Mortality, and Hospitalization in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis " Ann Intern Med. 2015;162(2):123-132. doi:10.7326/M14-1651

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