Sitting and restless: Stand against ‘meeting culture’ in Canada

Teresa Fazari —

Concerned you’re spending too much time in a chair during business hours? Well, you’re not alone. According to a new survey released by ParticipACTION, the majority of Canadian office workers (63 per cent) are worried about the amount of time spent sitting at work. With a third (32 per cent) of respondents saying they spend too much time sitting in meetings, and one in five committing at least an entire business day (8 hours) a week to meetings, the “meeting culture” is partly to blame for keeping us glued to our seats.

During ParticipACTION’s fifth annual Sneak It In Week—which runs from April 4 to 8—Canadians are encouraged to challenge the social norms at work, including marathon meetings, by taking active breaks, “sneaking in” 10-minute increments of physical activity, and dedicating less time to sitting. Reducing the almost 10 hours a day that Canadian adults spend sedentary will reduce the risk of diabetes, heart attack, high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol, not to mention sore backs and foggy brains.

63% of Canadian office workers worried about time spent sitting at work

According to the survey, Canadians are ready to make these changes at work. If given the opportunity, 59% per cent of office workers said they would stretch during a meeting, 54% said they would be open to a walking meeting, and 41 per cent would want to stand during a meeting if invited to do so.

“Busy schedules get in the way of making healthy choices, but it doesn’t have to be that way,” says Elio Antunes, president and CEO, ParticipACTION.  “If you do something as simple as give people permission to do things differently—like prompting them to stand during a meeting, for instance—research shows they will take you up on it.  We can make sitting less and moving more accepted and expected at work.”

Research shows that 10-minute bouts of physical activity are an effective way to increase fitness and meet the recommended 150 minutes of heart-pumping physical activity recommended for adults per week. Workplace physical activity initiatives have also been proven to increase productivity and job performance, boost creativity, reduce turnover and improve employee satisfaction and loyalty.  Plus, nearly a third of those polled say they think better on their feet.

Scheduling a meeting? Here are five tips to change your company culture, one meeting at a time:

Begin the meeting by inviting the room to stand-up and/or stretch throughout the meeting – this will set the tone and ensure people feel comfortable when they feel the need

Encourage attendees to use existing meeting breaks for physical activity. For instance, invite them to leave the room to go for a walk or take the stairs during a coffee break

Sit on exercise balls or stand during the meeting, rather than sitting on chairs

Schedule stretching breaks during the meeting and invite someone to lead the stretch

If you’re scheduling a meeting with a small group, arrange for a walking meeting so that you can sneak in some exercise while you talk

Looking for other ways to sneak it in during the workday? Visit the Sneak It In page at for more tips.

Canadians are invited to share how they are sneaking it in at work this week on Facebook at or via Twitter at #sneakitin.

About Sneak It In Week

ParticipACTION created Sneak It In Week, which runs this year from April 4 to 8, to help encourage Canadians to sneak in daily physical activity breaks.  For more information on Sneak It In Week, or to download free posters, door hangers, desk signs and logos, please visit

About ParticipACTION

ParticipACTION is a national non-profit organization that helps Canadians sit less and move more. Originally established in 1971, ParticipACTION works with its partners, which include sport, physical activity, recreation organizations, government and corporate sponsors, to make physical activity a vital part of everyday life. ParticipACTION is generously supported by the Government of Canada. For more information, please visit