Why Too Much Sitting Is Harmful

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Sitting Is Bad For HealthIn our modern way of life, sitting appears to be the default body posture when we work, socialize, eat, travel etc.  So, the idea that sitting can be harmful to your health might seems ridiculous at first.

However, recent studies have shown that all this sitting that we are doing is in fact doing a lot more harm to our bodies than we know it.

We often dismiss it, but non-exercise activities, like walking or just standing, do burn some calories. We call this energy expenditure non-exercise activity termogenesis (NEAT). NEAT is the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise. It ranges from the energy expended by walking, standing, fidgeting, typing, gardening etc. These seeminly trivial physical activities increase metabolic rate substantially and it has a cumulative impact on calories burnt. The lack of NEAT is an important factor for weight gain.

To put this in perspective, studies report that agricultural workers can burn up to 1,000 more calories per day than people working at a desk.

Sitting Linked to Various Diseases:

Sedentary behavior has been consistently linked to a number of chronic diseases. This includes a 112% increase in the risk of type 2 diabetes, and a 147% increase in heart disease risk.

Heart Disease: In a study that compared two similar groups: transit drivers, who sit most of the day, and conductors or guards, who spend more time standing and walking. Though their diets and lifestyles were fairly similar, those who sat were about twice as likely to get heart disease as those that stood at their jobs more.

Type 2 Diabetes: Studies have also shown that walking fewer than 1,500 steps a day can cause a major increase in insulin resistance, a key factor involved in the development of diabetes mellitus.

Chronic Back Pain: The seated position puts huge stresses on your lower back and neck muscles, ultimately leading to chronic back and neck pains. This is made worse particularly in those who slouch.

Try to use ergonomic chairs which are designed to give you the correct support. Even with a good chair, one should make it a practice to take short 1-2 min breaks for every half hour of sitting, to get up and stretch. This will go a long way to prevent chronic back pains which so many office workers suffer from.

Osteoporosis: Weight-bearing exercise and resistance exercise are particularly important for improving bone density and helping to prevent osteoporosis. Hence, older adults who aren’t active are more likely to develop this condition.

Cancers: In a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, researchers report that people who spend more hours of the day sitting have up to a 66% higher risk of developing certain types of cancer than those who aren’t as sedentary.

Sedentary behavior was associated with a 24% greater risk of developing colon cancer, a 32% higher risk of endometrial cancer, and a 21% increased risk of lung cancer. 

Sitting Linked to Early Death:

You’re more likely to die earlier from any cause if you sit for long stretches at a time. In fact, the most sedentary people had a 22–49% greater risk of early death.


The effects of too much sitting are hard to counter with exercise. Even if you exercise 7 hours a week, you can’t reverse the effects of sitting 7 hours a day. Don’t throw away all that hard work at the gym by hitting the couch for the rest of the day.  Remain active!

Just as you cannot outrun a bad diet, neither can you out-exercise a sedentary lifestyle.

Pubmed: Sedentary time in adults and the association with diabetes, cardiovascular disease and death: systematic review and meta-analysis.

Further Reading

The article above is meant to provide general information and does not replace a doctor's consultation.
Please see your doctor for professional advice.