Can Sitting Too Long Actually Kill You?

health risks of sitting too long

Between our office chairs at work and our couches at home, we do a lot of sitting throughout the day. We all know that sitting too long can have a negative impact on our health, but can it actually kill us?

Even a consistently active person can experience the consequences of sitting for long hours on end and suffer from an early death. Researchers have discovered a direct relationship between long hours of sitting and early mortality rates.

An experiment used a hip-mounted accelerometer to analyze the movement of adults over 45. The results showed that, on average, sedentary behavior accounted for about 12.3 hours of an average 16-hour waking day. That only left 3.7 hours a day for movement.

Another study found that adults under the age of 45, on average, sit for 9 to 10 hours a day. Researchers have estimated that these periods of sedentary behavior can be as short as 11 minutes at a time, but others periods can last up to 90 minutes.

As the amount of time spent sitting increases, so does the chance of early death. Based on this study, those who sat for 13 hours a day or more had a 200 percent greater risk of death compared to those who sat for 11 hours a day or less.

Positively, those who sat for less than 30 minutes at a time lowered their risk of an early death.

“Sit less, move more,” is what the American Heart Association is encouraging us all to do.

As a busy professional, I know that moving more isn’t always the most convenient or easiest thing to do. But just as we are encouraged to do moderate-intense aerobic exercises two hours and thirty minutes a week, we should be encouraged to do more frequent, less-intensive activities.

There are many simple, short activities that, if done frequently, can help reduce the harsh side-effects that come from long periods of sitting.

Partha's Prescriptions

  • Set a timer for 30 minutes. For every 30 minutes you spend sitting, try walking at a brisk pace for 5 minutes. Moving every 30 minutes allows for optimal blood flow to the brain and muscles. Try mixing it up; skip down the hall or do lunges - anything to get your heart rate up.
  • Take 10 minutes to do a mini-yoga session. There are many quick and easy sequences, such as sun-salutation, that can help wake up and stimulate your body and mind.
  • Volunteer to be the errand person in your office. Be the one to make copies, go on coffee runs, or delivery notes and messages to people. Small responsibilities like these are the perfect excuse to get up and move your body.
  • Drink more water as you work. Not only will drinking water help you feel better, but it will give you the urge to be active. Every time you finish your bottle of water get up and refill it. Let’s also not forget about the natural consequence for drinking water; bathroom breaks are the perfect excuse to get up and move.

Statistics show that people sit more as they get older. Make a conscious effort to sit less and move more. Your body will thank you, and you will find yourself living a longer, happier life.

Find this and other health-promoting articles by Dr. Partha Nandi on his website, Ask Dr. Nandi.

Practicing Physician, Chief Health Editor at WXYZ, Television Show Host, Speaker


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