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Updated: May 31, 2023

Research has linked sitting for long periods of time with a number of health concerns.

Increase in spinal disc pressure

  • Sitting for prolonged periods of time can be a major cause of back pain,

  • Prolonged sitting cause increased stress of the back, neck, arms and legs and can add a tremendous amount of pressure to the back muscles and spinal discs.

  • Sitting in a slouched position can overstretch the spinal ligaments and strain the spinal discs.

  • Studies of lumbar intradiscal pressure (IDP) in different postures and upright sitting have mostly reported higher pressures in sitting.

  • It was assumed clinically that flexion of the lumbar spine in sitting relative to standing, caused higher IDP, disc degeneration or rupture, and low back pain.

Muscle tightness and weakness

  • Due to prolonged sitting posture and inactivity lead to muscle tightness and the inhibition of the hamstring and gluteal muscles.

  • There was study on Muscle Activity and Inactivity Periods during Normal Daily Life in which the main focus was on the effects of prolonged sitting in inhibition of hamstring and gluteal muscles.

  • In conclusion, during normal daily life the locomotor muscles are inactive about 7.5 hours, and only a small fraction of muscle's maximal voluntary activation capacity is used averaging only 4% of the maximal recruitment of the thigh muscles.

  • Some daily non-exercise activities such as stair climbing produce much higher muscle activity levels than brisk walking, and replacing sitting by standing can considerably increase cumulative daily muscle activity.

Lifestyle disorders

  • Decreased cardiovascular health:

  • Prolonged sitting or periods of inactivity can affect endurance, metabolism, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and other cardiovascular health factors.

  • There was a study on prolonged sitting and increase in risk of cardiovascular diseases as ‘Objectively Measured Sitting and Standing in Workers: Cross-Sectional Relationship With Autonomic Cardiac Modulation’ .

  • The study concludes that excessive sitting and standing are proposed risk factors for cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), possibly due to autonomic imbalance.

Obesity risk increases:

  • Inactivity from sitting lowers the metabolism and the body’s ability to metabolize fat {4}.

  • I-Min Lee, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, notes that we burn 30% more calories standing than sitting {5}.

  • Cumulatively this can make a difference in your health in terms of weight control {5}.

  • There was a study ‘Relationship between Sitting Time, Physical Activity, and Metabolic Syndrome among Adults Depending on Body Mass Index (BMI)’ {4}.

  • It concluded that physical activity helps preventive metabolic syndrome and its abnormal components maintaining their BMI in the subjects {4}.

Increase in risk of type 2 diabetics

  • Prolonged sitting leads to increase in risk of developing type diabetics due to inactivity.

  • There was a study ‘Sedentary Behavior and Risk of All-Cause, Cardiovascular and Cancer Mortality, and Incident Type 2 Diabetes: A Systematic Review and Dose Response Meta-Analysis’

  • It concluded that total sitting and screen time are associated with greater risk for several major chronic disease outcomes .

  • For all-cause and CVD mortality, a threshold of 6-8 h/day of total sitting and 3-4 h/day of screen time was identified, above which the risk is increased.

Increase in stress level

  • There was a study ‘Influences of Continuous Sitting and Psychosocial Stress on Low Back Kinematics, Kinetics, Discomfort, and Localized Muscle Fatigue during Unsupported Sitting Activities’.

  • Then study concluded that Continuous, 40 min. periods of unsupported / prolonged sitting had broad impacts on subjective and objective outcomes, including discomfort, postures, spine loads and localized muscle fatigue, while psychosocial stress only had a substantial influence on lumbosacral compression.

  • These results extend the understanding of sitting behaviours and provide information for designing future sitting environments.

  • Prolonged sitting can lead to psychological stress and depression.

Effects on digestion and Increase in risk of Cancer

  • Prolonged sitting after eating can compress the abdominal cavity thus slowing down digestion, which can lead to various issues like heartburn and constipation.

  • In the article of ‘The Effects of Physical Activity on Cancer Prevention, Treatment and Prognosis: A Review of the Literature’.

  • It states that the benefits of physical activity in the prevention and progression of cancer patients are multiple. However, the strength of the available evidence is limited by the observational nature of most studies .

  • Given the probable improvement in prevention, mortality, and quality of life with structured physical activity in different malignancies .

Effects the mortality rate in an individual

  • Prolonged sitting increases the risk of all-cause mortality by 49 % as per research findings in a 2012 Diabetologia.

How to avoid prolonged sitting

  • Break your postures every 40 minutes; Put an alarm on your phone.

  • Follow a proper sitting ergonomics, use a standing desk instead.

  • Sit up straight with your hips far back behind, shoulders supported and feet flat on the floor.

  • The top border of the monitor should be at your eye level

  • Your elbows should be supported on the arm rest of the chair

  • The keyboard and the mouse should be at your elbow level

  • Recline your chair to 100-110 degrees{11}.

  • If you’re using a laptop, raise the laptop to your eye level with help of a portable laptop stand

  • Use a standing desk as an alternative.


5]Corliss, Julie. “Too Much Sitting Linked to Heart Disease, Diabetes, PrematureDeath.”Harvard Health Blog.N.p., 22 Jan. 2015. Web. 16 June 2017.

8] Andrews, Linda Wasmer. “What Sitting Does to Your Psyche.”Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, 20 Mar. 2014. Web. 16 June 2017.

10]Wilmot, E. G., C. L. Edwardson, F. A. Achana, M. J. Davies, T. Gorely, L. J. Gray, K. Khunti, T. Yates, and S. J. H. Biddle. “Sedentary Time in Adults and the Association with Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease and Death: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.”Diabetologia11 (2012): 2895-905. Web.

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