You know how achy you can feel getting up from your office chair after a couple of hours. But the impact of long sedentary hours goes far beyond a cranky back.
Various studies have linked sitting to a host of chronic conditions, including blood clots, depression, and diabetes. A 2018 study from the American Cancer Society found that prolonged sitting (more than six hours a day) is associated with a 19% higher rate of death from all causes—including cardiovascular disease and cancer—compared to sitting less than three hours a day.
And while “Sitting Disease” is not recognized as a diagnosable illness, the term is commonly used in the medical community to refer to the health effects of an overly sedentary lifestyle.
And most Americans spend a whole lot of time sitting. A 2017 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that for individuals over 45 years old, approximately 12.3 hours of a 16-hour day is spent sedentary.
Exactly how sedentary behavior and chronic disease are connected is unclear, but the correlation is strong.
In 2017, researchers from the University of Liverpool took a group of young adults who averaged 10,000 steps a day and made them reduce their steps to 1,500.
And even a robust exercise regiment can’t entirely offset the damage from sedentary behavior.
After just 14 days, participants experienced pronounced reductions in muscle mass and increases in body fat, as well as a decrease in insulin sensitivity and an increase in liver fat and triglycerides—all health outcomes associated with diabetes and heart disease.
A meta-analysis from 2015 suggested that prolonged sedentary time was associated with worse health “regardless of physical activity.”
Okay, but what if you have a job that requires you to sit for long stretches?
Make sure to stand up, take breaks often, and keep your body moving throughout the day, even if it’s just a little at a time.