Prolonged Sitting – the new health risk

This is the first blog entry in a series on sitting health.

ChairWe are at war with sitting! And the research is mounting. The risks of sitting too much were likened to smoking in the Los Angeles Times Article, Don’t just sit there. Really. that appeared last month. A recent study comparing the two habits found that you shorten your life by 22 minutes for every hour of seated TV watching compared to 11 minutes for each cigarette smoked.

Additionally, extended sitting increases your risk of developing cancer, diabetes and heart disease. The incidence of these diseases increased with sitting duration, according to a study conducted by Australia and Kansas State University and reported by WebMD, Too Much Sitting Linked to Chronic Health Problems.

Another article in Forbes magazine, Why Sitting Increases Your Risk of Dying Sooner, reported on a study finding “adults who sat for more than 11 hours a day had a 40 percent increased risk of dying within 3 years– from any cause– compared with those who sat for less than 4 hours a day. In addition, the chances of dying were 15 percent higher for those who sat 8-11 hours a day, compared to those who sat less than 4 hours a day.”

Yikes! Perhaps I should stand while I’m typing this, and you should do the same while reading. Not surprisingly, this is one of the suggestions to reduce our chair time. Check out the other tips from a Mayo Clinic expert.

  • Stand while talking on the phone or eating lunch.
  • If you work at a desk for long periods of time, try a standing desk — or improvise with a high table or counter.

Better yet, think about ways to walk while you work:

  • Walk laps with your colleagues rather than gathering in a conference room for meetings.
  • Position your work surface above a treadmill — with a computer screen and keyboard on a stand or a specialized treadmill-ready vertical desk — so that you can be in motion throughout the day.

Hmmm…I think the first suggestion will fire up some nutritionists and work/life balance coaches. And how feasible is a treadmill workstation? I don’t own a treadmill and can’t imagine arranging my desk in such a manner.

Sitting is a reality of our modern work culture. If you have a corporate white collar job you are going to sit – a lot. I worked as an ergonomist in such an environment, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that people are chained to their desks. When I encouraged people to get up every hour and walk around, there were stiff ramifications. For example, they had co-workers turning them in for not being at their desks!

Although it would be nice, I don’t see many companies having the resources to buy their employees sit to stand or treadmill desks. So, if we have to sit, and we do, let’s do it right with the least impact to our body. Tune in for next week’s blog, How to Sit Pain Free.

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About the Author


Jessica uses an integrative approach to help you overcome chronic pain. She believes in treating the whole person utilizing the biopsychosocial approach to healing. Her offerings include posture therapy, online exercise classes, pain science education, and individual or group wellness coaching. She is certified by the Postural Restoration Institute® (PRI), Egoscue University®, National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), American Council on Exercise (ACE) and Wellcoaches.