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Prolonged Sitting May be Hazardous to Your Health

Updated on February 28, 2013

Numerous studies and evidence is coming out suggesting long hours of sitting can be hazardous to our health. Our bodies were designed to move.

We evolved from a time and place where we are always actively hunting and gathering, not sitting at desk jobs 8 to 12 hours a day and then watching TV on the couch for another two more hours.

American spend half their lives sitting in one form or the other. Certainly, prehistoric humans did not do that much sitting. In fact, they did not have chairs. Chairs were not commonly available until the 16th century. Although benches were more common before then.

Studies are indicating that those who work at desk jobs die earlier than those with manual labor jobs. Other studies found that those who sat more have higher risk of death.

Prolonged Sitting is the problem

The media has reported on studies showing there is an inverse relationship between sitting and longevity. That means the more sitting, the shorter the life.

One study concludes ...

"Reducing sedentary behaviours such as sitting and television viewing may have the potential to increase life expectancy in the USA"

Article Sitting Kills! Experts Say Too Much Sitting Could Be Deadly says ...

"Scientists are increasingly warning that sitting for prolonged periods – even if you also exercise regularly – could be bad for your health."

And it does not matter if you are sitting watching TV or sitting at work. The problem is not moving. Some are saying that even regular exercise is not able to undo the harm of prolonged sitting.

More ideal may be to spread that exercise out over the course of the entire day rather than a single bout of exercise. Because after sitting four hours straight, the body starts shutting down the mechanisms for glucose and fat regulation.

Understandably, your boss may not look kindly on you if you stepped out for exercise every hour. But for those who work in your own at home, perhaps this is worth some consideration.

Ways to interrupt the sitting

It is best to interrupt the sitting by ...

  • standing up when talking on the phone,
  • walk over to co-worker desk instead of using instant messaging
  • drink a lots of water so you have to walk to restroom more often
  • and go to the water cooler more often
  • maybe have two short lunches instead of one long one
  • use the restroom that is on another floor and take the stairs.

Media reports on the dangers of sitting

Various major news source have reported on the danger of prolonged sitting.

The Examiner reports that ...

"excessive sitting time increased the population risk of dying from all causes of mortality 27 percent"

CBCNews reports that ...

"The longer people spend sitting, the more likely they are to die prematurely, regardless of their fitness levels"

and mentions that the mortality rate for those who sat all day was 1.54 times higher than those who did almost no sitting. It is believed that disturbances in glucose and lipid metabolism start to occur during prolonged sitting. has infograpic that says ...

"People with sitting jobs have twice the rate of cardiovascular disease than people with standing jobs."

and that sitting ...

  • shuts off electrical activity in the leg muscles
  • calories burning goes down to 1 calorie per minute
  • enzyme that break down fat drops by 90%
  • after 2 hours of sitting, good cholesterol drops by 20%
  • after 24 hours of sitting, insulin sensitivity drops by 24%

ABCNews talks about the dangers of sitting in long plane flights. Decrease of circulation increases risk of blood clots in susceptible individuals, especially if there is pre-exsiting vein injury. Deep vein thrombosis which is a clot that forms in the calves can affect 1 in 1000 people.

Don't Let Your Lymphatic System Stagnate from Sitting

We are familiar with our circulatory system in which blood circulates because of our pumping heart. However, our lymphatic system does not have a pump. It relies on natural bodily movement to keep things circulating. So we have to get up and get some large muscles moving to keep our lymphatic system flowing optimally. Sitting and typing with tiny fingers muscles won't do it.

Our lymphatic system plays important role in immune function, the transport of white blood cells and fatty acids, removal of interstitial fluid from tissues, and other roles. You can learn more about how exercise improves the lymphatic system in another article on Hubpages.

Book: "Sitting Kills, Moving Heals"

Joan Vernikos PhD wrote the intriguing book Sitting Kills, Moving Heals: How Everyday Movement Will Prevent Pain, Illness, and Early Death - and Exercise Alone Won't.

Vernikos was also guest on episode 606 of The Livin' La Low Carb Show with Jimmy Moore in which she talks more about the problems of long-duration continuous sitting.

She recommends getting up frequently if you are at a desk job. It is the continuous sitting that is the problem. She thinks yoga is great and housework is good for you. Do more of it. We are down to as low as 4 hours a week doing housework, which is way down from generations ago.

Standing Desk

As more and more people become aware of the problems of sitting, the use of standing desks are getting more popular. They can now be seen in use in traditional corporate offices as well as the individual home office worker. has ones that can quickly adjust for standing or sitting use. But you can find some on Amazon as well.

Standing Desk Review by

Treadmill Desk

In his Revolutionary Health Radio, Chris Kresser talks about the health detriments of sitting all the time. That is why he got a treadmill desk, which he says ...

"Lately the most significant change I’ve made, which I’ve talked about and written about extensively now, is getting a treadmill desk, which has totally changed my life, really. It’s probably one of the biggest changes in my health I’ve ever noticed from a single intervention, and I’ve done a lot over 15 years, probably more than most people."


This article was written in September 2012 and is opinion at the time of writing. Author may receive compensation from display ads within content. Author does not own a standing desk at the current time, but use a makeshift version of one by adjusting the shelves of standing bookcase so the laptop screen is on the top shelf at eye level. Then the bottom shelf holds an connected external keyboard for typing.


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    • Dee aka Nonna profile image

      Dee aka Nonna 

      6 years ago

      ....hazardous, in more way than one. If I sit too long I have to teach myself how to walk No, not really but the joints can get a little stiff. I think this is one of the reasons I hate long meetings. Good information.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you for this useful information, BlissfulWriter. The statistics are very interesting! Luckily I have a job that requires me to walk around a lot.

    • BlissfulWriter profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Totally right. With our modern work environment these days, some people are in the office 10 to 12 hours a day and in front of the computer the whole time.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Bev and I were just talking about this the other day; since I'm at the computer 8-10 hours per day, we discussed how I need to get up every hour and move around....and she is right....and you are right in this hub. Very good information!

    • BlissfulWriter profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      That is a good point about blood clots.

    • kj force profile image


      6 years ago from Florida

      BlissfulWriter..very interesting subject thanks for are very correct of which you also can shut down the circulation which may cause blood clots..sitting in a position for extended periods like a car/airplane also is can do ankle turns while at a desk that helps..raising the feet/legs is beneficial also..nice hub...


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