Mind and Body

Too Much Sitting Can Harm Your Health

If you spend a lot of time sitting every day, you may be harming your health, even if you exercise. A recent review of 18 studies with nearly 800,000 participants found a link between sedentary living and overall health.

Photo of man sitting, looking at computer screen

People who sit for long periods of time during the day have a two-fold increased risk for diabetes and heart disease. They also have a higher risk for death compared with people who don't sit for extended periods. Researchers found that regular exercise did not seem to lower this risk.

Avoid sitting too much

Although the study was not able to prove a direct link between too much sitting and worse health, the findings suggest people should be more mindful about their lifestyles. And fitting in regular exercise may not be enough.

"The average adult spends 50 to 70 percent of his or her time sitting, so the findings of this study have far-reaching implications," says study leader Emma Wilmot, a research fellow in the Diabetes Research Group at the University of Leicester in the U.K. "By simply limiting the time that we spend sitting, we may be able to reduce our risk for diabetes, heart disease, and death."

People already at high risk for diabetes should especially take these findings to heart. "Our study also showed that the most consistent associations were between sitting and diabetes," Dr. Wilmot says. "This is an important message. People with risk factors for diabetes may be able to help reduce their risk by limiting the time spent sitting." Risk factors for diabetes include being obese or having a family history of the disease.

Steps to more activity

You can take steps to be more active during the day. Study co-author Stuart Biddle of Loughborough University offers the following tips to reduce your sitting time:

  • Break up long periods of sitting at work by standing while using your computer. For instance, place your laptop on a filing cabinet.

  • Stand during meetings.

  • Take a walk during your lunch break.

  • Replace TV viewing with more active pursuits.

This study was published in a recent issue of Diabetologia.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

Online Resources

(Our Organization is not responsible for the content of Internet sites.)

CDC - Physical Activity for Everyone

Health.gov - 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans

NIH - Weight-control Information Network - Tips to Help You Get Active

December 2012

5 Tips to Be More Active

Being more active during the day isn't hard. Here are some tips:

  • Go strolling. American adults spend, on average, more than 2.5 hours a day watching TV. Turn off the tube for 15 minutes of that time and go for a walk. March in place or lift weights during commercials - or during the whole show, if you can. Instead of watching TV after dinner, stroll around the neighborhood.

  • Get clean and lean. Housework burns calories. Rake leaves, garden, clean the house, wash the car, or mow the grass with a push mower. Try to do some housework every day for an easy way to burn calories.

  • Ditch driving. Walk or bike on simple errands, such as going to the corner store. Make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes with lots of support. If you're heading to work, just toss your work shoes in a tote bag.

  • Walk that talk. Use a cordless or cell phone and walk around the house while catching up with friends. Even simply standing up while talking on the phone is better than sitting.

  • Make work hours count. Take short breaks to stretch and walk. If you need to talk with someone, walk down the hall instead of using the phone or e-mail. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

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