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Hopefully, we all do our best to be healthy. If we eat our fruits and vegetables, exercise regularly, drink plenty of water and avoid harmful habits like smoking, we should be good to go. Right?

It turns out there’s one more thing to add to a healthy lifestyle -- getting out of your chair or off the couch. Research shows that sitting for long periods of time can have a negative effect on your health, even if you do workout daily.

Physical inactivity has now surpassed smoking as the leading cause of chronic disease. In public health, we used to worry about people dying from infectious diseases such as cholera and tuberculosis, and from tobacco-related causes, but now our biggest concern is chronic diseases, including heart disease, such as stroke and heart attack, diabetes and some cancers. Often called, ‘lifestyle diseases,’ chronic diseases are the leading cause of death in the world, in the United States, in Montana and in Yellowstone County.

On average, Americans sit for nearly 10 hours a day. Over the years, the ways in which we work, play, learn and live have contributed to this trend. Jobs have shifted from manual labor to desk work. Entertainment has shifted from playing outside to video games, television and social media. Students have lost valuable time for physical activity and recess to longer classroom lessons. Meals have increasingly focused on convenience rather than quality and many of us can’t find the time for active transportation, such as walking or bicycling, to our destination.

For years, health professionals have encouraged adults to be moderately active for at least 150 minutes a week. Unfortunately, researchers have found that a 30-minute daily walk is not enough to overcome the harm done by sitting for long periods at a time. For maximum health benefits, try adding very short hourly activity breaks to your routine.

• If you work in an office, take a walk down the hall or up the stairs, do some stretches at the copy machine, try out a standing desk, or grab a co-worker for a quick walk around the block.

• If your job places you behind a steering wheel for hours, build in plenty of stretching breaks along the way.

• If you work in a school, break up your lessons with bursts of activity. Better yet, incorporate activity into your lessons to boosts student learning and focus.

• At home, take physical activity breaks during commercials by stretching, lifting weights, walking to the mailbox, or dancing to a song that gets you moving.

Just two minutes of activity every hour can make a difference. With physical activity inserted into the work day, you might find yourself feeling healthier and happier. Light activity throughout your day can help your heart, boost your mood and reduce anxiety. Adding two-minute activity breaks during your day just might add years to your life.

Melissa Henderson, Physical Activity and Nutrition Coordinator, can be reached at 651.6569 or