Sitting All Day Is More Harmful Than You Think

April 25, 2011

Businesswoman sitting on fitness ball in officeAccording to federal health officials, 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day can do wonders for your health. However, researchers are beginning to think that this type of regular exercise may not be enough to counteract the effects of sitting all day, reported NPR.

Although studies have shown that regular exercise can improve one's cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure and improve metabolism, some researchers are now saying that's not enough. Epidemiologist Steven Blair, a professor of public health at the University of South Carolina pointed out that most people lead very sedentary lives--we sit in an office or cubicle for eight or more hours a day and then either sit in front of the TV or at the dinner table talking at night.

"Let's say you do 30 minutes of walking five days a week (as recommended by federal health officials), and let's say you sleep for eight hours," said Blair. "Well, that still leaves 15.5 hours."

Blair recently headed a study where he examined the risk of dying from heart disease among adult men. He looked at how much time men spent sitting, whether in their cars, at their desks or in front of the television. Blair found that men who spent more than 23 hours a week sitting had a 64 percent greater risk of dying from heart disease than men who reported being sedentary for less than 11 hours a week.

The Wall Street Journal noted that when you are sedentary, muscle activity basically stops, which can lower metabolism and lead to other harmful consequences. Dr. Toni Yancey, a professor in the health services department and co-director of the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Equity at the University of California Los Angeles agreed.

"We just aren't really structured to be sitting for such long periods of time, and when we do that, our body just kind of goes into shutdown," said Yancey to NPR.

Therefore, The Wall Street Journal recommends doing little things throughout the day, such as periodic short walks, sitting on an exercise ball instead of a regular desk chair or even bending over to tie your shoe. Yahoo! Sports suggests parking your car farther away from the office and walking whenever possible instead of taking the elevator. Squats are a great idea, but if you don't want to grab everyone's attention, you can try smaller exercises at your desk instead. For example, try placing your outer thigh against the inside of your desk and pushing against the desk. This targets your abductor muscles and is hardly noticeable by others. You can also keep exercise bands in your desk drawer and use them to exercise your back and shoulders while sitting.

As Yancey told NPR, "The problem isn't whether [exercise is] a good idea. The problem is how to get people to do more of it."

Compiled by Heidi M. Agustin


"Easy exercises you can do at the office," sports.yahoo.com, April 22, 2011, Lisa White

"Sitting All Day: Worse For You Than You Might Think," NPR.org, April 25, 2011, Patti Neighmond

"The Danger of Sitting Still," blogs.wsj.com, April 21, 2011, Rachel Emma Silverman

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