What Are the Side Effects of Sitting Too Long?

Posted on Oct 10, 2020 in Health

More than 60% of working adults spend at least 6 hours sitting. It is the effect of technological evolution that pushed people in front of computers, thus considerably reducing the time spent walking, standing, or doing other physical activities. Furthermore, television, along with the new streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, or HBO Go, made people give up sports or walks to the more convenient sitting and watching.

So, here comes the big question. How harmful this lifestyle truly is? You’ve heard of people who get themselves in an inversion table desperately trying to reduce muscle pain caused by sitting. Is this the only problem you’ll be struggling it? And can it be solved? It’s time to shed some light on this subject, so you can clearly understand the risks and see what measures you can take to reduce the effects to a minimum.

How Long is Too Long Sitting?

If you are concerned that sitting 8 hours a day makes you sedentary, the bad news is you are right. In fact, each hour you spend on your chair increases the danger of developing illnesses that have been related to a sedentary way of life like high blood pressure or type II diabetes. Plus, if your after-work activities consist of two hours laying on the couch with a bag of chips and watching the latest episodes of The Walking Dead, you are basically cutting a few more hours from the time you have left to live.

Recent studies say that even exercising after work can barely compensate for the hours you’ve spent behind the desk. You’ll have to do around 60 to 70 minutes of moderate exercise, and even this may not be enough.

Why Sitting Is the New Smoking?

Some specialists even consider sitting to be more dangerous than smoking, with more intense effects on the organism. Studies performed in this field proved that spending 8 hours per day without making any type of physical exercise will match the risk of dying recorded for obesity or smoking.

Nonetheless, the lack of activity can affect you in so many ways, so let’s take a brief look at the effects.

1. Your metabolism becomes slower

Does it seem that even if you are doing your 30-minute or 1-hour exercise session, it still doesn’t have the effects you’ve expected when it comes to losing weight? Well, when your muscles aren’t engaged in any activity for some time, they experience fewer contractions, and this will reflect on the rate at which your body clears the fat from the bloodstream. To put it short, it does it at a slower pace. The result is a decrease in insulin production, which leads to less energy being consumed, allowing it to deposit under the form of fat.

2. Your back aches all the time

We are made to stand, and, in this position, a big part of the muscles are engaged, the pressure being divided among them. Nevertheless, when sitting, the lower back muscle groups will take a big part of this task, the stress focusing on the joints and the muscles around. This, combined with an inadequate posture, can lead to chronic pains, an issue that can become difficult to deal with.

3. Your blood pressure goes through the roof

As the body doesn’t get the chance to consume all the energy, it deposits it as fat. The consequence is a higher release of stress hormones that leads to higher arterial pressure and higher quantities of sugar in your blood. The good news, though, is that if you start moving, this problem can be solved pretty quickly, as long as you don’t have other conditions that may be causing it.

4. The risk of cancer increases

As we have explained, when spending time seated, the pressure concentrates only on some parts of the body, so it comes almost as no surprise that the areas more affected when it comes to cancer are the endometrial zone and the colon. Unfortunately, recent studies have proved that sedentary people have higher chances to develop these types of cancer, and their mortality rate tends to be higher as well.

5. The cholesterol levels increase

There’s no joking with cholesterol levels, especially when it comes to LDL cholesterol, also known as “bad” cholesterol, as it can, in time, lead to metabolic syndrome. It consists of a series of events that can be triggered by high cholesterol, counting stroke, heart attack, and even death. Unfortunately, the more time you spend sitting, the higher the possibility to develop this syndrome is.

6. You can get type 2 diabetes

Even if you make a purpose of exercising after work, the odds are that you may get diabetes if you have a seated job. The latest studies have proved that spending 4 to 6 hours without engaging your body in physical activity can raise the risk of getting diabetes by 12%. Moreover, if the time increases to 6 to 8 hours, the risk rises as well to up to 19%.

7. You may feel depressed

The lack of physical activity has been associated with unhappiness and depression. But, besides that, sitting for hours in front of a screen means that you may not socialize enough, and this can render a feeling of loneliness. Furthermore, if you spend a lot of time indoors, you may not be getting enough sun, which is responsible for fixating the vitamin D in the bones. This deficiency has also been linked to depression.

How Can You Reduce the Effects of Sitting All Day?

While there’s no way to totally eliminate the consequences of spending more than 8 hours a day in a sit-down position, you can, nonetheless, alleviate them and enhance your health and life.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Take a break every hour and walk around the office – It may seem that crossing the room to fill your water bottle won’t help you a lot, but the truth is that it does. Your leg muscles haven’t been active for a while, so getting them to contract will make them “wake up”, at least for a little.
  • When the workday is over, don’t go lying on the couch – find yourself a way to stay active. Enroll in some fitness classes, go jogging, walk, dance, do whatever you like most, but make sure you get at least one hour of exercise after work.
  • Do some stretching – you will probably want to do them at home. Some Yoga poses can help you get over the stiffness of the day. Pilates can also be a good pick in this case. If the atmosphere at work permits it, stretch every time you get the chance. It will help you later when the back pains tend to kick in.
  • Make sure your chair is adjusted to your physiognomy – you don’t want it too tall, and you don’t want it too short either. Make sure that, when you are sitting, your feet are planted on the floor, and your hips are positioned above the level of your knees. Furthermore, the chair should be able to offer you an ergonomic position.


The secret here is actually no secret. You have been hearing this for years now. The TVs scream it, the doctor says it every time you go for a consult. The only way to reduce the side effects of a sedentary life is to get moving. And you’ll see that it isn’t that hard actually. Once you create a routine and start sticking to it, you’ll already feel better and want to preserve these effects. Moreover, remember that you don’t need to sweat your brains out every day (although it certainly wouldn’t hurt) but try to add movement here and there until the bad habits are replaced with newer, healthier ones.