Sit less, Move more!

Ignoring your parents, and other ways to save your life

by John Wilford


“Don’t do that”

“Put that down”

“Don’t talk with your mouth full”

 Familiar ‘instructions’ heard by kids, of all ages.  Now the truly disgusting ones…

 “Sit down!”

“Sit still!”

 Mum, you got it so wrong.

 If you are reading this sitting down, please, get up. Standing comfortably? Then we’ll begin…

 Sitting is killing us.  It has become a ‘goto’ topic for the BBC on slow news days, and a recent article on the Harvard Business Review blog condemns sitting as our generation’s smoking.  There is an increasing body of evidence, generated by clever academic types on both sides of the Atlantic, showing just how bad sitting is for us.

Research in the USA shows people spending more time sitting (9.3 hours per day) than asleep (7.7 hours).  Like it or not, the UK is in the same ballpark.

Add up the time spent sat at your desk, in the library, in lectures, seminars, meetings and tutorials.  Time spent sat in the car or on the bus. Then there’s ‘leisure sitting’ – watching TV, at the computer or games console.  Sitting, just sitting. Oh, sit.

Further research suggests that if you sit for more than 6 hours a day, you are 40% more likely to die within the next 15 years than someone sitting for just 3 hours.  The bombshell is that this is true even if you exercise. Sedentary behaviour (sitting/lying whilst awake) is not just a lack of physical activity; it’s bad in its own right. As soon as you sit down, your leg muscles switch off, calorie burn drops to 1 per minute and after 2 hours your ‘good cholesterol’ has dropped 20%.  Whether you are an exerciser or not.  Higher rates of sedentary behaviour correlate with greater risk of mortality, independent of levels of physical activity. 

Sitting is a habit – and a bad one.  Like smoking, or biting your nails (Sorry Mum…).  It’s automatic and easy.  But it is a habit that can be broken. 

Look at what makes you sit, and where and when you could do without it.  On the phone? Stand up.  Having a short meeting? Ignore the chairs. On the laptop? Raise it up and stand (use window sills, cabinets, even the ironing board). This is before we even get to walking more – park your car further away from destination, take the stairs not the lift, etc etc…..

Yes, there are times that you will need to sit.  But limit it.  Get up and move around frequently. Swap standing and moving for sitting wherever possible.


Take a stand against sitting – sit less, move more.

How to beat exam stress

Things the prospectus doesn’t tell you #17: Revision and exams

John Wilford, Sport Exercise & Health


Arrrggghhh.  Are your days broken down into 30-minute, colour-coded blocks of revision? Getting up early to claim a library desk? Staring at notes and screens until your eyes throb?  Before you know it the day ends, you’re hungry, dehydrated and your head hurts.  Welcome to the Summer term! 

 Stop. Breathe. Relax. You’re a finely-tuned, exam-passing machine. An athlete of academia. For any athlete, quality of training is more important than quantity; rest, recovery and refuelling must be programmed into their day. 

 Now look at that revision planner.  Which coloured blocks are for eating, sleeping, relaxing and exercising?  Don’t run on empty. You need to be relaxing, refuelling and refreshing yourself to survive and do well. 



  • Relaxation techniques: Practise tensing and relaxing each muscle group in turn starting with your toes and working your way up the body.
  • Breathing: Practise breathing deeply, evenly and slowly.
  • Sleep: If tired it’s hard to concentrate and maintain perspective. If you’re finding it difficult to drop off, cut down on stimulants (e.g. caffeine and alcohol) and allow time to unwind before bed. The key to feeling refreshed is having a regular pattern. Getting regular exercise helps (but not immediately before bed).
  • Massage and exercise (pilates, yoga, tai chi separately or combined in ‘Body Balance’ classes) are available from Sport, Exercise & Health
  • Therapeutic relaxation groups are organised by Student Counselling



What we eat and drink influences not only physical performance but mental performance too. If you want to boost concentration, memory and mood in the run up to exams try some of these:

  • “5 a day” of fruit and veg
  • Oily fish every week
  • Cut down “bad“ fats. Don’t rely on fast food!
  • Good breakfast to start the day
  • Eat regularly and have healthy snacks (raw carrots, celery, chopped nuts, raisins, dates, etc.)
  • Drink plenty of fluids (recent research suggests drinking water during exams can help improve grades – so don’t forget your water bottle!) though limit caffeinated and sugary drinks, especially before bed
  • Go steady with alcohol – bad for performance and sleep quality



Some anxiety can help motivate, but high levels of stress cause excess adrenaline resulting in headaches, racing heart, fatigue, irritability and sleep problems.  Physical activity uses this adrenaline, reducing these symptoms. It also releases endorphins, improving your mood.  Including some exercise in your day will boost energy and clear your head. It doesn’t have to be a two-hour gym session or a five-mile run. A brisk walk is great exercise and doesn’t need specialist kit or planning.  Even small bouts of activity can reduce tension and boost productivity.

 An organised class or activity could help.  Schedule them to fit your timetable.  It will give a welcome break from academic thoughts – and you’ll mix with different people.

 University gym staff note that many regular exercisers stop during this time of year.  Apart from one notable group – medical students.  What do they know that others don’t…..?


So, Wilf’s theory of revision optimisation (with apologies to mathematicians everywhere)…


Relaxing x Refuelling x Refreshing = Revising3



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