Health Hazards of Prolonged Sitting and What You Can Do

Published:  11/15/2019

My desk-converter converts my desk into a standing desk easily.

Health Hazards of Prolonged Sitting

Think about how much time you spend each day sitting down.

You may sit during your commute to and from work, most of the day at a desk job in front of the computer, in the evening while watching TV. All this may add up to 16 hours of sitting down every day. And all this sitting has an impact on your health.

Compared with lower volumes of sitting (<4 hours/day), high volumes of sitting (>8 hours/day) have been found to be associated with adverse health outcomes. People who sit a lot have an increased risk of both all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality.

Sitting shortens life, increases the risk for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, dementia, cancer, and deep vein thrombosis risk. Weight gain is probable, odds of anxiety and depression increase, it stresses your back, neck and spine, and blood pools in your legs which can lead to varicose veins.

The consequences of too much sitting are hard to undo with exercise. And even if you exercise regularly, this much sitting could still have a major impact on your health. The dangers of being sedentary are worse with lower levels of physical activity than at higher levels.

Sitting for more than 3 hours a day can reduce a person's life expectancy by 2 years even if they exercise regularly. Watching TV for more than two hours a day can shorten life expectancy even further, by another 1.4 years, says this British Medical Journal study.

Therefore, sitting less, moving more through the day and a moderate to vigorous exercise habit contributes to better health.

Sit Less and Stand More

  • A good place to start is simply standing instead of sitting when you have the chance or find ways to walk and move while you work.
  • Set a timer to remind you to stand up from sitting every 30 minutes.
  • If you work at a desk, try a standing desk or a standing desk converter. This will allow you to alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day. And for maximum benefit, also buy an anti-fatigue mat.
  • If you don't have a standing desk move your laptop throughout the day to a high countertop.
  • Consider getting a treadmill desk. These desks have a computer screen so that you can walk as you work throughout the day.
  • Stand and walk while talking on the phone.
  • Set an alarm to remind you to stand up and do some stretching or other exercises that will promote good posture.
  • Schedule walking meetings with coworkers. Or have a standing meeting.
  • Pace while you are on the phone.

Moderate to Vigorous Exercise Recommendation

For good health, the American Heart Association and World Health Organization recommends this schedule of exercise:

  • At least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both.
  • When exercise is performed at moderate intensity, your heart will beat faster and you'll breathe harder than normal, but you'll still be able to talk. You would say your exertion level is medium.
  • When done at vigorous- intensity your heart rate will be even higher and breathing much more rapidly with more effort. You would say your exertion level is hard.
  • You will gain even more benefits by being active at least 300 minutes moderate-intensity or 150 vigorous-intensity per week.
  • In addition to cardiovascular exercise, add in muscle-strengthening weight training at least two days per week.
  • Move more, sit less every day and follow the recommendations for exercise. Being more active is beneficial and will help you live a longer, healthier life.

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