The Health Hazards of Too Much Sitting

Sitting for extended periods is widely recognized as a risk factor for poor health. Many studies have linked too much sitting with increased risk of chronic disease and early death. Extended sedentary time has also been associated with obesity, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome in adults. And it’s not just adults who need to be concerned about too much sitting—the negative effects of sedentary time are also seen in children and adolescents, even at low levels of activity. Experts have identified two types of sedentary time: stationary and inactive. Stationary time refers to the length of time you spend sitting per day, while inactive means how much time you spend doing little or no physical activity. While these two factors are related, they aren’t the same thing.

What is the Health Risk of Too Much Sitting?

The biggest danger associated with sedentary behaviour is an increased risk of developing chronic health conditions, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers.


Long periods of sitting have been associated with increased risk of obesity, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes, even in people who get the recommended minimum daily amount of physical activity.

The main reason for these negative health effects is that sitting promotes inactivity and reduces the amount of energy expended. Sitting for long periods also reduces blood flow and leads to poor posture, which can negatively impact musculoskeletal health.

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Short-term health effects

– Poor posture – Sitting for extended periods can cause bad posture, which can result in back, neck, and shoulder pain. Sitting with bad posture also puts pressure on internal organs such as the kidneys, and can lead to respiratory problems.


Cardiovascular risk – Sitting has been associated with increased blood pressure and reduced heart rate, both of which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease. – Blood sugar – There is some evidence that prolonged periods of sitting can negatively affect blood sugar levels. – Metabolic risk – Sedentary behaviour is associated with reduced metabolic rate, which can increase the risk of metabolic diseases such as diabetes.

Long-term health effects

– Weight gain – Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination survey show that adults who sit for more than 6 hours each day have a 90% greater risk of being overweight or obese. – Poor cardio-metabolic health – Long periods of sitting are associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes. – Early mortality – A meta-analysis of studies examining the relationship between sedentary behaviour and mortality found that prolonged periods of sitting increased mortality risk by 18%.

Additional Side Effects of Too Much Sitting

– Poor Mood – Sitting for long periods has been shown to negatively impact mood, perhaps due to reduced blood flow to the brain. The impact on mood is greatest in people who sit for more than 8 hours per day. – Poor attention and reduced creativity – Studies have shown that sitting for long periods can have a negative impact on attention and creativity.


The effect is most pronounced in people who sit for more than 5 hours per day. – Poor sleep – Long periods of sitting are associated with poorer quality of sleep. – Weight loss resistance – There is some evidence that extended periods of sitting can contribute to weight loss resistance. – Joint and bone health – Extended periods of sitting have been associated with reduced bone mineral density, which can negatively impact joint health.

Strategies to Combat the Health Hazards of Sitting

– Get moving! – The best way to combat the negative health effects of sedentary behaviour is to break up your day with periods of physical activity. – Stand up! – Standing up regularly during the day can reduce the negative health effects of too much sitting. – Get a standing desk – If you work in an office, you can use a standing desk to integrate more standing into your day. – Get a treadmill desk – If you have a desk job, you can combat the negative health effects of too much sitting by getting a treadmill desk.

Bottom line

Sitting is an unavoidable part of modern life, but there are ways to reduce the negative health effects of too much sitting. Breaking up your day with physical activity and standing up regularly are the most effective ways to reduce the risk of sitting.