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Prolonged Sitting May Increase Your Risk for Premature Death and Disease

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Many of us have jobs that require us to sit for countless hours every day at our desk working on the computer or doing other paperwork. And sitting usually does not stop there. We sit in the car on the drive home from work, eating our meals, and of course who doesn't come home from a busy day only to plop down on the sofa to relax, read and watch T.V. In a article published in the November 2009 issue of Women's Health Magazine, the average American spends 56 hours per week sitting--the equivalent of 2 full days per week and then some.

How does all this sitting affect our health?

Prolonged sitting may be leading us down the road to poor health. Sitting may also be a contributing factor to the increase in cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. According to a study published in the May 2009 issue of the Journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, the official Journal of the American College of Sports Medicine, sitting for extended periods of time may increase our risk of premature death, not to mention an increase in disease.

And other studies are revealing that prolonged periods of sitting, even for those who exercise on a regular basis, can be detrimental to our overall health and well being. According to a University of Missouri study published in November 2007, sitting for hours on end can have adverse consequences on our health, even for those who get in 30-60 minutes of exercise every day. The study stated even individuals "exercising, even for an hour a day, was not sufficient to reverse the effect."

The human body was not designed to sit. It was designed to stand and move. This is why it is so important to make it a practice to get up at least once every hour to walk around and do some light stretches or walking in place. Even pacing while on the phone or walking during your child's soccer/baseball/dance practice can have a positive impact on your health. It takes time to develop the discipline to get up and move, but knowing that your body will receive the health benefits of movement is a step in the right direction.

Were you aware of the consequences that prolonged sitting has on your health? What are some of the ways you incorporate periods of activity into your day?

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I believe every word of it. Problem is, I FINALLY got a job, ok, and where is it - at a CALL CENTER. NO MOVING except at breaks and lunch. (only a 30 min lunch at that) I sit at the office and feel like the blood is probably curdling in my legs. My husband developed blood clots when he changed to a desk job. I try to stretch my legs under the desk a little and do upper body stretches too. But movement is very limited. While we're not getting calls I suppose I should stand more often, but I feel funny standing where 1000 people can see me. (very self-conscious) Supposedly, the job only lasts through December, so I hope I don't go downhill too bad by then. I'm already exercising a LOT less since starting work. Seems like there are so few hours in the day outside of work to get everything else done. Report
Also, where are the specifics of how premature a death on average and what kinds of diseases are promoted by sitting? Report
I feel like there's nothing we can do now without adversely affecting our health. I'm not championing sitting on your butt all day every day, but every little bit helps keep yourself a healthier you, and you can't fix and hide from every health hazard. Obsessing over how much you sit in a required place (work) can't be good for your health either. I get up at least once every two hours, either to go to the bathroom or to get my midmorning/midafternoon snack, if just for a few minutes, but if I was pacing all over the building, I would get canned... If you can fit in more activity, of course that's great, but if you cannot, don't beat yourself up: know that by being on SP and reading these tips and articles (including this one), you've already turned yourself a step in the right direction. Report
Not surprised, scary indeed. It makes sense though, moving makes you feel better. Report
This really opened up my eyes to what sitting is doing to me, I will make a effort to walk around every hour Report
No I wasn't aware of how bad it really is to sit for long hours at a time. I'm in trouble!! I sit all day and getting up maybe, every 2-3 hrs. I don't do much standing since I've gained this much weight either! I need to re-think everything in my day to incorporate more walking and standing!! Oh My!! Report
OH my goodness. This article has sort of freaked me out. I know I felt better when working at a cafe/esspresso shop being constantly active but now my job has been to be at a call center. I am tied to "my chain" or phone for 8 hours a day. I'm starting to get more active but know that will not be enough. I wonder if a Dr would write a note allowing to have an exercise ball at work. As of now they aren't allowed because some people were stupid on them previously at another call center in the company...oiy... Report
I will try and move more at work also. this was very interesting artcle
Thanks, this is good information. I will try to move more while at work. Report
This article helped me to understand that I need to take a break from the computer more often. Report
Great article...I make a habit of getting up and walking about..plus when I am quilting I leave my ironing board out in another room so I have to walk to it with EACH piece that needs to be ironed. Report
I'm a massage therapist, so I move around quite a bit at my work. But, of course, I see many clients who do sit at desks all day. Several walk before and after work, and on lunch breaks. One client told me he installed a Stretch Reminder on his computer! It sits in your icon tray and reminds you to get up every once in a while and walk around and/or stretch. I think it's great! Here's a few:




And there are others out there, too. I also know a few folks who swapped their chairs for stability balls. Just gotta make sure it is the right size for you and your desk.

Also, I find that a lot people just don't engage their core. You can use core strength and good posture while standing or sitting - just breathe deep, relax your shoulders, lift your ribcage/chest, and gently firm your abdominal muscles. Imagine pulling your belly button in towards the back of your sacral spine. It makes a big difference. Report
I walk to and from the job that is 20 per week four days a week, and still it feels horrible to be sitting at all (especially in front of a computer) but, I often stand up and do the work , make the calls and enter the data, the office is too small to really walk around in, but once the spring hits I'm going to be bold and go outside at least once or twice during my shift, (when we are not on deadline) and take a breather..I guess Ill have to assert myself, which is always a little iffy -but goes well once I do it. Report
I'm a teller at a bank and we have the privlage to sit while helping a customer. I didn't realize that sitting was really that bad. I will have to stand more often. Report
I'm a document processor, sitting 9 hours a day. I smoked when I started the job so I got up every 2 hours for my 15 minute breaks and lunch break, but since quitting last February sometimes I not sit through the whole 9 hours! I will make it a goal to get up every hour on the hour to refill my water bottle :) Report
It already sounds bad enough without mentioning that (in addition to all of the above) you can really mess up your neck working at a computer wearing bifocals. That's what I did to my neck. They now make "multifocal office glasses" that make a big difference. I am supposed to set a timer to remind me to correct my posture and do "chin tucks" every hour to control or correct the curvature of my neck. Report
I had no idea that sitting affecting people in those ways. I work at a call center also and being on the phone and typing while talking all day doesn't leave much time to stand and move around. I know it has affected my knees, I can feel it when I am able to finally move. Very informing article. Report
I work at a call center, sitting 8 hours a day. I started job 2 years ago and I can see a big difference in my health. In my old jobs I was always standing and moving. I have decided to start an exercise program to combat all the sitting I do. Report
As a writer, I spend an inordinate amount of time sitting at my computer. One thing that has helped is to trade my desk chair for a large exercise ball. Yep! You can't resist bouncing, rolling back and forth, and it's a great enforcer to sitting up straight. Plus, if you get lazy, you'll nearly roll off into the floor, so that'll force you to get off your . . . um, bottom. :-) Report
This is an eyeopener for me. I've always tried to get up at least once an hour but I see that I need to move more. I appreciate and will use some of the tactics I've read here on the comments. Thanks for the insight. Report
I'm very aware because of the issues I have with my shoulders, neck and back. Even if I try to hide it, my chiropractor and massage therapist always know when I've sat too long on the computer. I get up every 20 min and stretch, then take a short walk - down and up the hall, to the bathroom, around my office, whatever works. I also take an eye break, as its very straining on the eyes to work on the computer. I stare out the window or look far off down the hall for a couple minutes. It does all help. Good article. Report
This concerns me. I just got licensed as a tax preparer. I've been sitting around for several weeks, studying, and now I'll be working at a desk. Furthermore, my new boss keeps the break room stocked with goodies. It's a danger zone. Report
My ankles & feet have been swelling into the afternoon or evening so I thought I'd check on it. I learned last week that it's due to excessive sitting & I am at high risk of blood clot-related death (like SARIGAR1's friend). I sit at a desk all day & again in the evening either staring at tv or playing on the computer. Not any more!!!
Thanks for spreading the word. This type of information could save lives! Report
Lately, I have been noticing the "bad" things sitting has been doing to my knees. Unfortunately, due to the recession, my formerly active job isn't as active as it once was. So, I find myself sitting more than I really should during the day. Sitting does seem to place a strain on my knees. That's why I've been taking a lunch time walk. It's not because I want to burn calories. It's because I need to stretch my legs and move around.

This information doesn't surprize me. We know being sedentary is the worse thing a person can do to their body.

This article was very interesting. I knew that it was good to get up and move around during the day but don't really think about it as I am working through my day which keeps me in front of a computer most of the time. I know there are things I can do to make sure I get up and moving each hour, a lot of which is mentioned here, including print to the network printer so I have to walk down the hall to get it, walk around the building during the day, or at least just get up and stretch at my desk. However, working on my dissertation really requires me to sit and read and type for long lengths of time and I lose track of the time I have spent sitting. Another goal to work on . . . Report
I sit at my job most of the day but try to get up and move. Thanks for the article to remind me why I get up and move. Report
I had a friend who was active on the weekends, but overweight and sedentary most of the rest of the week. A couple of years ago, just after Thanksgiving, he passed out, and his wife couldn't move him. When he woke up, they went to the hospital and he underwent tests. Turns out he had blod clots in his lungs. The doctors believed that they came from his legs, because he sat for long hours playing computer games. They worked to remove the clots, but he passed away, leaving a wife and young daughter behind.

Since then, his friends have made an effort to get people to get up and walk around every 2 hours or so to get the blood flowing and reduce the risk of clots. Report
I had no idea that sitting for such long periods was that bad for you. I do try to get up and move around the office, but will certainly make a more conscious effort. I plan to set an alarm to go off every hour and then remember to get up and move. Maybe even go to get a drink of water at the fountain across the building to increase my water intake too! Thanks for this article. Report
I work in an office and do alot of sitting but make time to get up and walk the halls a few times a day and always take the steps... Report
luckily I work in a pretty busy college library and if there isn't a need to get up and help a student, there are always books and magazines to reshelve.

When I had a more desk-centric job, I had two 15 minute breaks and one 30 minute lunch. I always walked during my breaks, and if possible ate lunch at my desk so I could walk for the 30 minute lunch too. It was really hard, and if you're not crazy about your desk job, I'd encourage you to find something more active!! Even just a little bit of activity helps; dont be tied to a computer. Report
Unfortunately for me, I have to sit to for my employment, or I don't make ends meet. It is a shame it has to be that way! I'd much prefer to be on my feet. Articles like this make it seem like we have to deal with the fall out from it because even exercise won't combat it. Report
as an artist I sit most of the day! I knew it wasn't that great to do so, but now I am more motivated to get up and MOVE! thank you for this post! Report
Kind of scary when its your job. Report
great article Report
Great article Nancy. I'm going to forward it to our Central office. Report
Oh Man! No wonder I have trouble getting up and down! I try to get up at least once an hour, but will have to make sure I really get up and move. Report
I agree with Mookball. I spend a significant amount of time on the SparkPeople web site trying to earn SparkPoints and learn how to get healthy. Don't get me wrong, SparkPeople is a God Send and I have learned a lot here. Maybe I will bend over to type and walk in place while I surf SparkPeople. lol Report
Very interesting. Got to move a little more during the day! Report
Wow, this explains why I have a hard time getting up without pain in my feet every morning: because I'm not working my muscles. This sometimes happens when I've been sitting too long. I have a friend who has to have help up from a sitting position, & I'm guessing she is only in her 40's, possibly as old as me: 47. Watching her get up reminded me of myself & how I'm headed her direction, If I do not make changes. I do not mind my husband doing things for me, but I do not want him to have to do that much for me: I can find more creative ways to have him show me his love. He cooks 2 times a week & well.......Lately he has been bringing me tea: which, I've not asked for, however I do enjoy it. Report
This is even a bigger concern for bicyclists! Even though we are exercising (good), we're doing it in a sitting position. Bicycling Magazine had an article on this a few months ago. They stressed how important it is for bicyclists to realize their exercise of choice has some consequences and to mix it up with upright exercise. Report
This just cements one of my major goals for 2010: Build a treadmill desk! Report
I was fully aware of this. I teach school and I am constantly up and moving. Not just because it's my job, but because it keeps me from becoming sedentary. Thanks for the article! Report
I sit as well, however, I stretch, yarn, on purpose, I also do ankle exercises while sitting! I roll my neck, wrist and play with each finger. I'l get up, on ocassion to walk around and get some steps on a pedometer which I'm wearing now. I have motivation phases around my desk which I read as a break away from my computer. Good eye opener! Report
My job IS to sit - in front of heart monitors and call the nurse for problems. I'm up to the bathroom and water machine about once an hour, but the sitting is why I took the job. I am no longer able to stand for long, or bend, lift, pull, etc. Wonder what the hospital would say about a stability ball? Report
because i work behind a computer like most of us there are several habits i began incorporating because i felt some of my returning knee pain might be a symptom. i park my car as far away from my office as possible. i print to the networked printer/copier which forces me to get up several times an hour. and i use the women's restroom downstairs which means not only am i getting outside but i am mixing up my activity throughout the day. my pants were looser after a month of that. Report
Believe it or not, I know this to be very true. I know that sitting for long periods of time is not good. It causes poor circulation which can lead to PAD or blood clots. I sit at a desk behind the computer daily. Right now my left leg is in pain behind my calf and sometimes it throbs and tingles. I know that I should get up and walk around but sometimes my work load and deadlines prevent me from doing so. I wear a TED hose on my leg which helps some. I am going to try my best to start taking breaks away from my desk, this is for my benefit. I do not want to get blood clots nor any other ailment which could be prevented by me simply getting up walking around a bit. Report
With SparkPeople, Faacebook applications, e-mail and music activities I sit at the computer a LOT. The MU article cited had some interesting info: They found evidence that sitting had negative effects on fat and cholesterol metabolism. The researchers also found that physical inactivity throughout the day stimulated disease-promoting processes.... “The enzymes in blood vessels of muscles responsible for ‘fat burning’ are shut off within hours of not standing,” Hamilton said. “Standing and moving lightly will re-engage the enzymes, but since people are awake 16 hours a day, it stands to reason that when people sit much of that time they are losing the opportunity for optimal metabolism throughout the day.”

It's a timely article for us computer sitting folks :-) Report
And just how do we got the boss to agree? I'm supposed to be at my desk working, not walking around hte building. Nice thought, but not really practical for those of us who have jobs. Report
Great article.

I do sit at a desk, but I get up all day to open up the door, go to the printer, restroom. I was doing this to get more steps in my day. Report
This makes all the sense in the world to me. I know it in my bones. And what scares me is that I have been leading a very sedentary lifestyle, sitting for most of the time each day, sleeping horizontal 6-8 per night. I don't want to die prematurely, so I think I'll get off my butt and do other stuff! (Perhaps I'll throw my computer away)... Report
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