Why is sitting for too long bad for you?

Prolonged sitting

I think on some level all of us know that if you sit for too long it's not good for your health – it's common sense, everybody knows it. But how much actually is too long? What happens in your body and why should you avoid sitting for too long periods? I hope this blog post will give you some clarification on this.

We sit while we eat, we sit while we drive, we sit while we watch TV. We sit while we work and our children sit while they study. A recent study found that western people sit 8-10 hours a day. People in Finland sit 7-8 hours a day. While sitting itself is not wrong or dangerous we understand that sitting daily for hours and hours has its effects.

You may have heard the saying "Sitting is the new smoking". Not too long ago smoking was common in restaurants, homes and even in airplanes. It took societies decades to determine the associated risks and long after that to change the habits. And now we are dealing with sitting, which – I think – came into our lives quite sneakily and before we even realized it had taken over a too big of a share of our lives, and just during the past years we've started to realize that it has become a global health problem. 

There are multiple studies indicating that prolonged sitting is a risk factor for a variety of chronic health conditions such as:

  • metabolic syndrome
  • obesity
  • type II diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • cardiovascular disease

to name a few. The World Health Organization ranks physical inactivity as 4th largest killer globally. As soon as you sit down your metabolism reduces about to the same level as if you were sleeping – all your biggest muscles turn inactive: thighs, buttocks, calves and middle body are all asleep. While we are resting our bottoms our core and back muscle strength decreases leading to chronic backpain. And even if you exercise for at least 30 minutes most days, you are still storing up health problems from being sedentary too much.

The list above sounds scary and it may feel overwhelming to think that you should suddenly be able to reduce sitting by hours. But the good news is that the key is to reduce the time you sit in one sitting not so much the total hours you sit throughout the day. It's okay to sit! Just focus on getting up from your chair at least once every hour (preferably every 30 minutes), stand up for a while and move a little. If you are already standing up part of you workday, great! Just make sure you remember to add breaks and movement also to the hours you spend warming up your chair. This is a pretty simple and achievable goal to everyone. 

If you feel like working while standing is unpleasant, try an accessory such as the Gymba Activation Board to make it easier, pleasant and fun. You will quickly realize that you spend much longer periods standing up than ever before and you'll feel more energized and productive!

Specific tips on how to reduce sitting during a workday coming up later!