Is sitting down the new smoking? Plenty of experts believe so, and let’s face it more and more people everyday work jobs that keep them sitting on their butt all day long. Sometimes more than 40 hours a week. Have we been ignoring just how bad it is for your health to sit for an excessive amount of time? After all, we can see from history how long it took us to realize how harmful smoking was for our health.
It is absolutely terrible for you, and many health experts agree. Let’s take a look at how sitting all day is bad for your health.
Is sitting down killing you?
Okay, so that looks a little exaggerated doesn’t it? I’m trying to make a point here because I see it every day. I work in an environment where people literally sit all day long, 40 to 50 hours plus a week and I get to see it firsthand how bad this can be for people’s health.
So I’m going to start with my own anecdotal experience with sitting all day before we get into the science. Personally, my main issue is with back problems, and primarily with lower back pain. I’ve been working at sitting job for about 7 years now and I remember when I started I already had some lower back pain but it accelerated and has gotten progressively worst each year that I’ve been there.
It got to the point that I couldn’t take another day of it which lead me to get a sit/stand desk, making my work experience much less agonizing. As that’s how I would describe my work day prior.
People get fat.
Personally, I am one of those people that can’t gain weight no matter what they do, so I didn’t have this issue (yes, I know you hate me). However, I have seen people come into this type of environment at a healthy weight and 6 months later add 50+ pounds. This isn’t uncommon! It’s not one or two people, it’s a common reoccurrence that I would see. Maybe it wouldn’t be 6 months for everyone, but in a year or two, this was almost the norm for the average person.
People that do this type of work for a decade tend to look like they are dying. Not just from weight gain but they literally just look sick. I mean they look like a heart attack is just around the corner. Many have turned diabetic, some are now in wheelchairs because they can no longer walk. I’m not kidding, sitting all day has literally left them unable to move. You can see it slowly killing them, exactly like smoking can do…or worse.
Now granted not everyone is affected as much as the next person and not everyone has quite the same negative health effects. However, you see people that smoke their entire life and don’t get lung cancer. It doesn’t mean that smoking doesn’t cause cancer!
What the experts say. Here is the science.
Okay okay. Enough of the anecdotal claims. What does the science show? After all, that’s what really matters, right?
Here are some interesting studies that show how sitting all day is literally killing you:
1. TY Warren et. al. Sedentary behaviors increase risk of cardiovascular disease mortality in men. Medical Science Sports Excercise, 2010.
This study showed that in men, cardiovascular disease increased drastically for those that were more sedentary. The study included time spent riding in a car and how much time they watch TV. The study was done over a 21 year period through survey analysis. Death from CVD increased between 64% and 82% for sedentary men through this time period.
2. D.W. Dunstan et. al. Television Viewing Time and Mortality. The Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study (AusDiab), 2010.
The findings were that increased television time was associated with increased risk of all-cause and CVD mortality. However, the associations with cancer mortality and non-CVD mortality did not show a strong correlation.
3. P Katzmarzyk et. al. Sitting time and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Medical Science Sports Excercise, 2009.
The data collected in this study demonstrated a close-response association between sitting time and mortality from all causes and CVD, independent of leisure time physical activity.
4. D Young et. al. Sedentary Behavior and Cardiovascular Morbidity and Mortality. A Science Advisory From the American Heart Association, 2016.
The findings showed that no amount of physical activity is enough to make up for the dangerous health effects of sitting all day.
Here is a study showing how sitting all day contributes to obesity:
5. MT Hamilton et. al. Exercise physiology versus inactivity physiology: an essential concept for understanding lipoprotein lipase regulation. Exercise and sports sciences reviews, 2004.
This study shows how sitting can decrease the activity of lipoprotein lipase, which is an enzyme that is crucial to helping your body burn fat.
Here is a study showing how sitting all day decreases bone mineral density:
6. J.E. Zerwekh et. al. The effects of twelve weeks of bed rest on bone histology, biochemical markers of bone turnover, and calcium homeostasis in eleven normal subjects. Journal of bone and mineral research, 1998.
This was a study done that examined participants that went through 12 weeks of bedrest. Not only did it show that bone mineral density decreased, it also showed bone formation decreased. Thus, raising the risk of fracture.
Take away from the studies
First off, it is important to note that even though these studies show a strong correlation, it isn’t 100% showing causation. Like any study, it is going to be hard to account for all variables and completely write off another explanation for the ultimate cause of the negative health effects.
However, this continues to be studied and eventually I think will show that beyond a shadow of a doubt sitting all day is harmful to your health. If you combine studies like these with anecdotal experience, as well as basic common sense; then it’s easy to see how sitting down scrunched over all day long can have negative effects on your health.
Sitting is a part of normal life and always has been. But sitting for 8 hours a day straight with no activity, then going home and sitting for another 3 to 4 hours watching television or being on the computer isn’t something humans are meant to do.
Hopefully, this article gives you some insight on just how bad sitting all day can be for your health and gives you some incentive to figure things out and make some lifestyle changes to counteract the negative health effects.
What about you? Do you work an office job that encourages all day sitting? Is there anything that you’ve done to decrease the amount of inactivity your work day leads you towards? Let me know in the comments below!
I used to work in an office full time up till about three months ago but it was many years before that, that I started putting on weight.
This was due to not just sitting in front of a computer all day but I wan’t getting any exercise at all. So I took up running again which I do three times a week and go fit again.
I also made a point of getting up from my desk every 45 min – 1 hour to walk the office and also I would join other people at work for a lunchtime walk outside.
I think that making all the changes that I did helped me become more physically active but also helped keep my weight under control. So I think this worked to counter the effects of sitting down all day.
I have definitely experienced health problems associated with sitting for long periods. I spent many years working in an office and struggled with both weight gain and back issues. Fortunately, my company had a wellness initiative and took steps to make it easier for employees to combat these issues. We had a fitness center on the premises that employees could use before and after work and also during flexible lunch breaks. The results were very positive for many but, of course, not everyone took advantage of the facilities. This is great information to get out there. As awareness of the problem increases, both individuals and employers can seek better solutions, Thanks for the info!
It definitely helps to try to fit in some exercise to counter the negative effects, but even if you exercise it may not completely override the negative aspects of sitting all day! It’s important to find a way to move around and not just sit for 8 hours a day.
Primo Perez says
Amazing article loaded with so much useful information. It’s bad enough when you have to sit 8-9 hours a day in your job, another 1-2 hours in your commute to and from work. Three additional hours at the table for Breakfast, lunch, and Dinner, and if that was not enough another 2 or 3 hours in front of your entertainment center seeing TV or watching movies. We are talking of about 16-17 hours sitting each day.
We need to just getup and move. A little stroll around the block after dinner, getting up a going to a coworker instead of calling or sending an email or short stroll around the block after lunch would be a great start to decrease the time spent sitting.
Thanks Primo! I’m glad you enjoyed the article. Yeah, 16 hours of sitting on your ass a day will eventually get to anyone. Doing things like you mentioned can add up if you make it a habit. 🙂
Sitting for hours and hours is a huge problem, but what can one do about it?
If one’s work requires us to sit for long periods, is there anything we can do to change that?
Thank you for pointing out all the side-affects. We need to know these things. Loved the way you compared sitting to smoking.
For starters, get a sit/stand desk 😉 But yeah, it’s rough if you have a job where you are in front of a computer all day. Check this out: https://sitstanddeskconversion.com/counter-the-efffects-of-sitting-all-day