Stand Up for Good Health: Risks of Sitting Too Long

Sitting Health Risks

Stand Up for Good Health

While we all know the hazards of failing to include regular exercise as a part of our lives, it now appears that too much sitting can be risky. 1

Related Article: Dangers of Sitting Too Long

Research confirms the benefit of getting up and moving to maintain excellent health and quality of life as well as protect against premature death.

Research on Reduction in Sitting and Health

On November 13, 2013, Richard and Sara Rosenkranz of Kansas State University and their colleagues published findings from Australia's 45 and Up Study, which included 194,545 participants, in BMC Public Health. In this study, those who reported the least time spent sitting were 13% more likely to rate their overall health as excellent and equally more likely to rate their quality of life as excellent in comparison with those who sat eight or more hours per day.2 "Not only do people need to be more physically active by walking or doing moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, but they should also be looking at ways to reduce their sitting time," Richard Rosenkranz stated.

"We're basically telling our bodies to shut down the processes that help to stimulate metabolism throughout the day and that is not good," Sara Rosenkranz added. "Just by breaking up your sedentary time, we can actually upregulate that process in the body."

The Women's Health Initiative, which consisted of three clinical trials (CT) and an observational study (OS), was conducted to address major health issues causing morbidity and mortality in postmenopausal women. In the February 2014 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Dr. Rebecca Seguin of Cornell University and her colleagues reported the results of a study that included 92,234 subjects who were 50 to 79 years of age upon enrollment in the Women's Health Initiative. Dr. Sequin and her associates discovered that women who spent 11 hours or more per day sitting or lying down without sleeping had a 12% increased risk of dying of any cause over an average follow-up period of 12 years compared to women who reported spending the least amount of time sitting or lying down (four hours or less). The greatest increase in risk occurred in coronary heart disease, followed by cardiovascular disease and cancer. 3

"The assumption has been that if you're fit and physically active, that will protect you, even if you spend a huge amount of time sitting each day," stated Dr. Seguin, who is an assistant professor of nutritional sciences in Cornell's College of Human Ecology. "In fact, in doing so you are far less protected from negative health effects of being sedentary than you realize."

Solutions for Sitting for Long Periods of Time

Solutions for Workers and People with Disabilities

Dr. Seguin recommended that "If you're in an office, get up and move around frequently. If you're retired and have more idle time, find ways to move around inside and outside the house. Get up between TV programs, take breaks in computer and reading time and be conscious of interrupting prolonged sedentary time."

A possible solution for those whose jobs require hours of sitting might be work stations that can be temporarily elevated to accommodate a standing position.4,5 At break time, substitute walking around the perimeter of your workplace for time spent sitting with one's coworkers in the break room or snacking at your desk.6

If you have a physical disability that prevents you from getting up and walking, there are exercises that can be done from a seated position that can help improve circulation, muscle tone, and even cognitive function.7,8 These can also be done by nondisabled individuals, although getting out of your chair for a few stretches, waist twists, or squats is better.9

If your job requires a lot of desk time, make sure that your leisure time involves as much activity as is feasible.10,11 In other words, avoid spending hours watching television or surfing the web. Your body will reward you with better health and quality of life, and maybe a few more precious years.


  1. Dunstan DW et al. Diabetes Res Clin Pract 2012 Sep; 97(3):368-76.
  2. Rosenkranz RR et al. BMC Public Health. 2013 Nov 13;13:1071.
  3. Seguin R et al. Am J Prev Med. 2014 Feb;46(2):122-35.
  4. Wang M et al. Physiol Int. 2018 Jun 1;105(2):157-65.
  5. Shrestha N et al. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2018 Jun 20;6:CD010912.
  6. Carter SE et al. J Appl Physiol 2018 Sep 1;125(3):790-8.
  7. Ellapen TJ et al. Afr J Disabil 2017 Sep 8;6:337.
  8. Abe T et al. J Phys Ther Sci 2018 Apr;30(4):609-13.
  9. Hawari NSA et al. J Sports Sci. 2018 Jul 30:1-8.
  10. Biddle GJH et al. Int J Environ Res Public Health 2018 Oct 17;15(10).
  11. Patel AV et al. Am J Epidemiol 2018 Oct 1;187(10):2151-8.


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