Have a seat or maybe not – The health risks of too much sitting

February 2013 View more


Extended sitting appears to have potent metabolic consequences

For those of you who exercise regularly, congratulations. But take note, if you’re also sitting for more than eight hours a day, you’ll need to hold up on the superiority dance. Studies show that even if you exercise, spending more of your day on your rear, versus your feet, may negate the benefits of exercise.

According to federal government statistics, almost three-quarters of older adults are sedentary, and more than four out of 10 get no leisure-time physical activity at all. Mounting evidence confirms that sitting for long periods of time increases the risk of obesity, diabetes, cancer and early death, even for people who exercise daily. Unfortunately, Americans sit more than we move. Most people spend at least 10 hours a day sitting. Between car travel, sitting at work, face time with a television or computer, we sit too much.

A study at the University of South Carolina revealed that even physically active men were 64 percent more likely to die of heart disease if they sat more than 23 hours a week in front of the TV, compared with those who sat 11 hours a week or less.



Extended sitting appears to have potent metabolic consequences, meaning that the body’s ability to break down fats and sugars in the blood becomes less efficient. Research shows that sitting for six hours per day or more, makes you 40 percent more likely to die than someone who sits less than three hours a day. And that’s even if you get regular exercise! Additionally, people who sit more have higher levels of cholesterol, blood sugar, triglycerides and even waist size, all of which increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease and other health problems.

As a child, I didn’t have the distraction of computers and cable TV enticing me to sit. Though modern technology has been positive in many ways, it has unfortunately taken the place of a very important piece of the healthy lifestyle puzzle, physical activity.

In an effort to counter your sitting time, here are some suggestions to sneak in more activity.

  • I have a timer on my iPad that I use daily. I set it for 30 minutes. When the alarm goes off, I get up and walk around for a few minutes. If I do that during the course of my work day, I’ve just added at least 20 minutes of activity vs. sitting time.
  • My son, Mitch works in the city and uses a stand up desk and he said, “I like it because I’m not slumped over a desk all day. It forces you to pay attention while your body stays alert too.” There are also treadmill desks available.
  • When reading email or checking Facebook, make it habit to stand up and read. If it takes you 5 to 10 minutes, that’s less time sitting.
  • At the office, use your desk and do some push-ups. If you’re on a conference call, walk around your office rather than sit and talk. Walking lunges are also a great addition to your in-office workout.
  • If you drive to work, rethink where you park and consider parking farther away. If you’re in your car and contemplating a drive thru, park your car and walk in.
  • Use the stairs in your office building. Start a stair-climbing group during lunch or twice a day for 15 minutes. If smokers can have a cigarette break, you should be able to have a health break.

Even if you exercise regularly, these tips are still important to your overall health. We must find ways everyday to offset our chronic sedentary lifestyle if we are going to make our health a priority.