It is a well established fact that sitting for extended periods of time can be bad for
personal health. Global studies show that on average we sit 7.7 hours a day.
Whereas some studies have found that a large number of people sit up to 15 hours a
day. The problem only gets worse with age. Adults 60 years and older spend
between 8.5 to 9.6 hours a day in sedentary time.
The researchers have found that even if we exercise regularly, prolonged sedentary
time could negatively impact the health of our heart and blood vessels. Moreover, a
sedentary lifestyle may also be associated with an increased risk of diabetes,
impaired insulin sensitivity and a higher risk of death from any cause.
The exact mechanisms behind the ill-effects aren’t yet clear. Some experts theorize
that more sitting leads to reductions in insulin sensitivity, while others believe net
calorie expenditures decline as sitting increases.
The specific guidelines recommend that for every 30 consecutive minutes of sitting,
stand up and move/walk for three to five minutes to reduce the health risks from
Health risks of prolonged sitting –
Its health risks have been enumerated below:
Decreases energy expenditure – It can give rise to low energy expenditure, leading
to overweight and obesity.
Decreases insulin sensitivity – It can cause a decrease in insulin sensitivity,
leading to full-blown type-2 diabetes.
Causes metabolic syndrome – It contributes to metabolic syndrome.
Increases cardio-vascular diseases – It sharply increases risk of cardio-vascular
diseases. The researchers have found that men who reported >10 h x wk (-1) riding
in a car or >23 h x wk (-1) of combined sedentary behavior had 82% and 64%
greater risk of dying from CVD than those who reported <4 or <11 h x wk (-1),
Promotes cancer – A couple of studies have documented higher rates of cancer and
cancer-related deaths in very sedentary people. A sedentary life style has been
consistently associated with an increased risk of colon cancer, but the evidence for
its association with breast and other gynecologic cancers is limited.
Causes depression – It can cause loneliness and depression as being stuck at the
desk or chair means not getting outside enough. Therefore, it reduces the social
circle of people. Coupled with this, the lack of sunshine can cause deficiency of
vitamin-D, leading to depression. This underlies internet paradox that an advance in
social technology leads to health problems.
Bad for back, neck, arms and legs – Prolonged sitting is ergonomically bad for
back as it excessively increases back pressure, which may lead to chronic back
ache. Besides, it can cause increased stress on the back, neck, arms and legs.
Increases all cause mortality – Prolonged sitting increases all cause mortality
independent of regular physical activity. A study found prolonged sitting time was
responsible for 6.9% of deaths.
Tips to reduce sedentary time –
· Take a three to five minute break about every half hour during the day to stand,
which burns twice as many calories as sitting, or move around.
· Watch TV while standing or exercising.
· Try standing and moving whenever you are talking on a cell phone.
· Standing desks also can help those who are stuck in a cubicle or office all day.
Such desks offer the user the option to transition easily from sitting to standing
position, being freely able to transition throughout the workday.
The crux –
The scientific community has coined a word – sitting disease, which is commonly
used when referring to metabolic syndrome and the ill-effects of an overly sedentary
There is a common misconception among people that if they engage in the
recommended 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per week, they can
compensate for prolonged sitting. Conversely, they are still subject to the negative
impact of too much sitting, which has been conclusively found.
But the good news is that if we choose to stand up, sit less and move more, we can
experience a great number of attainable benefits to our health.