Many of us spend much of our day sitting down. Even if we exercise regularly, the rest of the time that we spend not moving can be bad for us. Researchers have found that too much sitting is linked to a range of health problems including several diseases and even some types of cancers.
Even when you engage in 2.5 hours per week of physical activity, increasing evidence suggests that what happens in the remaining approximately 108 hours of the waking week is important for your health.
Researchers aren’t yet sure how much we can sit during the day without incurring health risks, but findings suggest the more you move, the better it is for you.
Below we outline 5 reasons why you shouldn't sit for prolonged periods, followed by some suggestions about how you can get more movement into your day.
1. Too much sitting has been linked to disease
Too much sitting can cause high blood pressure and high blood sugar, and will likely increase your risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease or heart attack. One analysis that combined the results of a number of studies found that compared to people who are more active, those that spend a long time not moving had a:
- 112% increase in risk of diabetes
- 147% increase in cardiovascular events
- 90% increase in death due to cardiovascular events
- 49% increase in death due to any cause.
2. A sedentary lifestyle makes you more likely to be overweight
Even if you exercise, too much sitting can make it hard to lose weight. Studies have shown that people who spend more time watching TV tend to gain more weight over time and are more likely to be obese.
3. Your mood improves if you move
You are more likely to have anxiety or depression if you sit for long periods of time. In one recent study, employees who sat for longer than 6 hours each day were more likely to have anxiety or depression. Employees who sat for less than 3 hours a day had fewer of those symptoms. The same study found that going to the gym didn’t affect these employee's levels of anxiety or depression.
4. You're less likely to get cancer
Some cancers, especially those associated with your weight and metabolic functions, have been linked to too much sitting or lying down. That includes breast, colon and endometrial cancer.
5. You can expect to live longer
Sitting for long periods of time increases the likelihood that you will die. One study found that adults who sat for 11 hours or more were 40% more likely to die within 3 years than those who sat for less than 4 hours.
Tips to sit less and move around more while at work
If you have to spend a lot of time at your desk or find yourself sitting for prolonged periods of time try the following tips:
- Make time to get up out of your chair, stretch and do a range of motion exercises.
- Stand while talking on the phone or eating lunch.
- If you work at a desk for long periods of time, try a standing desk – or improvise with a high table or counter.
- Walk laps with your colleagues rather than gathering in a conference room for meetings.
- Go for a walk on your lunch break.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Wilmot EG, Edwardson F, Achana FA, et al. Sedentary time in adults and the association with diabetes, cardiovascular disease and death: systematic review and meta-analysis. Diabetologia 2012, 11(55): 2895-2905.
- Kilpatrick, M., Sanderson, K., Blizzard, L., Teale, B., Venn, A. (2013), Cross-sectional associations between sitting at work and psychological distress: Reducing sitting time may benefit mental health. Mental Health and Physical Activity, 6(2), 103–109. doi:10.1016/j.mhpa.2013.06.004
- Van der Ploegg H, Chey T, Korda, RJ, et al. Sitting Time and All-Cause Mortality Risk in 222 497 Australian Adults. Archives of Internal Medicine, 2012, 172(6), 494-500.