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The Dangers of Excessive Sitting


A majority of the working population in the United States spends their day sitting at a desk working on a computer for upwards of eight hours a day. With the exception of a lunch break of about an hour combined with a few trips to the copy machine or to a coworker’s desk, there is limited number of opportunities that workers have to move around and break the pattern of constant sitting. Over time, a growing number of research publications and surveys are showing us that this amount of sitting can turn out to be quite dangerous for the human body in a variety of different ways and the trend seems hard to alter.

Sitting for extended periods of time isolates the spine and prevents any sort of movement. In turn, this isolation leads to stiffness and an increased burden of our weight placed on the spinal column. This chronic stagnation provides the opportunity for discs to become out of place, vertebrae to deteriorate in structural integrity, and various other problems.

Another danger in sitting for upwards of eight hours per day is the drastic changes in our metabolism. Remaining stationary for so long requires less energy production in our body, which in turn tells our body that it does not need to process any intake as quickly. When our metabolism decreases, calorie burning is slowed and thus there is the potential for poor weight management and even weight gain.

Chronic diseases have long been associated with a sedentary lifestyle. Even in individuals who make an effort to incorporate physical activity into their lives after the work day, the amount of sitting during the work day does not necessarily negate the physical activity but it definitely detracts from the added value of the exercise. Cardiovascular disease and all types of Diabetes are much more common in individuals who maintain a sedentary lifestyle and unfortunately, many Americans in the workforce are somewhat forced into a sedentary lifestyle due to the nature of their jobs.

Lastly, excessive sitting is a contributor to a significant decrease in quality adjusted life years (QALY) and ultimately premature mortality. The onset of chronic disease combined with the presence of musculoskeletal injuries work together to negatively impact other body systems entirely. This is a dangerous combination.

Taking breaks to move around, proper hydration throughout the work day, the fitting of offices with stand-up desks and many other strategies can be incorporated to counteract the harm that excessive sitting can do. With mindfulness and behavioral modification, we can all improve our efforts to sit less.

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Used under Creative Commons Licensing courtesy of Tony Woods

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