Is sitting too much killing you?

An article that was recently published in Scientific American stated that sitting as much as we do is bad for our health. The study reported that standing more, even at a desk job, could lower risk for obesity, illness and death.

Americans (and other Westerners too) sit on average for 13 hours per day. We sit when we work, eat, shop, date, relax and play computer games.

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We think nothing of sitting, but it has been reported that chairs are lethal. This is not something that has been reported in one study, but in fact over the past 20 years there have been over 18 studies, covering 800,000 people which back up the claim. For example, in 2010 the journal Circulation reported that it had been found that adults who sat more than 4 hours per day watching television increased their risk of death from any cause by 46% compared to those who watched TV for less than 2 hours per day. Scary stuff I think you will agree!


But why is sitting so bad for us? 

Sitting for short bursts is fine, but when you sit for long periods it becomes bad because the human body, surprisingly, was not designed to be idle. Sitting, which obviously results in an overall lack of movement, has been found to slow metabolism, reducing the amount of food that is converted to energy. This promotes fat accumulation, obesity, and all of the associated conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and arthritis. Sitting after a meal leads to high blood sugar spikes, whereas getting up after you eat can cut those spikes in half, so lean people are also not safe from the perils of the chair.



NEAT, or non exercise activity thermogenesis, is the energy a person expends going about his or her everyday life. It has been suggested that by increasing an individuals NEAT time, it could help to reduce the incidence of disease, illness and obesity.

By sitting all day long people are ignoring their innate drive to move that is as biological as breathing. Also, by sitting so much we are going against how our bodies have been designed to work. The hypothalamus which is located in the brain and manages appetite, will make you hungry if you are active, for example if you spend a whole day raking leaves. Further to this, there is a feedback system from the muscles senses muscular overexertion and signals a person to sit and rest after a hard day of work. However, in the modern chair-based environment we have overwhelmed this biologically driven balancing act and so we eat when we don’t need to and sit when we do not need rest. Something is not right there, and something needs to be done!


What can we do? 

We are not on a one way road to our deaths due to sitting as we are not prisoners of our environments. Technology such as computers and computer games have played a massive part in the daily cycle of sitting and eating, but technology can also help us to solve the problem.For example, we could use our mobile phones to take calls in work which would allow us to wander around whilst talking. Also, recent video games that link computers to physical competitions; the Nintendo Wii, encourage movement, and so can help to reduce the time spent sitting. At work, desks could be redesigned so that employees could stand or treadmill desks could be developed to allow office workers to do their jobs while moving.


There are so many possible ways of increasing the amount that we move and reducing the time that we sit, so what are you waiting for?  Although we in a sea of killer chairs: adjustable, swivel, recliner, wing, club, chaise longue, sofa, arm, four-legged, three-legged, wood, leather, plastic, car, plane, train, dining and bar, we do not have to succumb to their dangers- amazingly we do not have to use them. If you read this article whilst standing up then congratulations—and if you didn’t, get up! It is our responsibility to change our health- so get started now.


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