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The Effects of Sitting all Day

Updated on 27. Dec. 2018

With jobs where we spend eight plus hours sitting at a desk and Netflix on-demand at our fingertips through just about any device, we are becoming more and more sedentary. Most people have heard by now that sitting all day is detrimental to our health, but what is it really doing to our bodies and how can we counteract the negative effects?

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Less than 200 years ago, as a society we walked for 90% of the day, now we have turned into a society that sits for 60% of our day.1 This change has had a profound and negative effect on our health, with studies showing that just one additional hour of sitting per day increases our risk of early death by 11 percent.2 Even more troubling, is the fact that exercising for the recommended 30 minutes per day does not counteract the negative effects of sitting all day (that doesn’t mean your exercise is fruitless, you should still make it part of your healthy lifestyle).


Sitting for long periods during the day, the average American is sitting for over 9 hours per day, is also a leading risk factor for many diseases.3 Sitting for prolonged periods causes the important processes that break down sugars and fats to stop, leading to high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, obesity, weak muscles and even some types of cancer. The World Health Organization has even identified our sedentary lifestyles as the 4th leading risk factor of death for the world’s human population.4 All of these factors have caused sitting to be called the smoking of our generation.


So, what exactly can you do to counteract some of the effects of sitting all day? Many studies have found that getting up to walk around for just 1-5 minutes every 30-60 minutes is beneficial in reducing some of these negative effects and reducing the risk of premature death by 33 percent.5 If it is possible at your workplace, getting a standing or treadmill desk is another great option. Many experts also suggest taking some of your daily meetings while walking, these can either be phone meetings or face-to-face meetings. One study found that getting just 16 more minutes of physical activity per day is enough to kill off some effects.5


It’s not just the inactivity that is bad for our bodies, it is also poor posture. Many people who sit at desks tend to slouch over to get closer to their computer screen without even noticing. Poor posture can lead to many issues, such as back and neck pain. Sitting in a curved, slouching position causes pressure on the cartilage disks in your backbone. This pressure causes wear and tear on those disks, which can lead to back pain and discomfort. Another harmful effect of a slouched posture is that it limits the amount of space your lungs have to expand, meaning you are getting less. Less oxygen means less concentration, so this slouched position actually leads to you focusing less on your work and allowing your mind to wander.


Our bodies were made to move, with the hundreds of joints and the processes happening that require our blood to be flowing, a sedentary lifestyle is not a suitable solution for the human body. Taking a few easy steps during the day can drastically help negate the effects sitting all day has on your body. Set a reminder on your phone to get up every 30-60 minutes or use an app like Pomodoro Timer, which will remind you to take a 5 minute break every 25 minutes of work followed by a longer 10 minute break after 4 work periods (you can also adjust the work and break periods to better suit your work style.) The most important thing to remember is that you need to move throughout the day.  


1. “Sitting All Day is Really, Really Bad for You (Infographic).” Mind Body Green. Mind Body Green, 21 August 2014. Web.

2. Vlahos, James. “Is Sitting a Lethal Activity?” The New York Times Magazine. The New York Times, 14 April 2011. Web.

3. Merchant, Nilofer. “Sitting is the Smoking of Our Generation.” The Huffington Post. The Huffington Post, 18 January 2013. Web.

4. Christensen, Jen. “Sitting will kill you, even if you exercise.” CNN. CNN, 30 April 2015. Web.

5. Brodwin, Erin. “Here’s the easiest way to undo the harms of sitting all day.” Business Insider. Business Insider Inc, 1 June 2015. Web.

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