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Too Much Sitting May Increase Your Risk of Chronic Disease …
and Premature Death



These days you likely hear a lot about sedentary lifestyles, and how this inactivity can lead to obesity and all of its related problems. But what you may not realize is that the word “sedentary” comes from the Latin word “sedere,” which means “to sit.”


Sitting too much can interfere with your metabolism and weight, and may contribute to heart disease.

Being sedentary could actually be described as any behavior during which energy expenditure is low, which always applies to prolonged periods of sitting at home, at work, during your commute and even during your leisure time.

Now, as with all sedentary activities, the evidence is increasing that shows sitting is, in fact, a risk factor for not only chronic disease but also premature death … a worrying finding considering how long the average American spends sitting each day.

Just how long is it?

Well, American adults spend an average of more than eight hours each day in front of screens, including televisions, computer monitors, cell phones and others, according to a Video Consumer Mapping study.

During this time, most Americans are also likely to be sitting, but that’s not all. Americans also sit at their desks and in their cars, which could easily push the average number of hours spent sitting even higher.

For years health officials have urged us to make sure we get in our 30-60 minutes of exercise daily, but in any given day adults have about 15.5 "non-exercise" waking hours. For many adults, a great portion of this time is spent sitting.

Now, researchers say, it’s important not only to exercise, but also to make sure you are breaking up prolonged periods of sitting time with other activities. In other words, even if you exercise every day, it may not be enough to overcome the negative effects of 8+ hours spent sitting.

What’s necessary to be optimally healthy is a combination of both exercise and reducing your sitting time each and every day.

What’s So Bad About Sitting?

Sitting is perfectly healthy and natural, assuming it is not done in excess. Your body is meant to move, flex and stretch, so anytime it becomes sedentary for extended periods negative changes begin to happen.

Numerous studies show rates of heart disease, diabetes and obesity are doubled and even tripled in people who sit a lot. Part of the problem is sitting stops the circulation of lipase, an enzyme that absorbs fats. So instead of being absorbed by your muscles, when you’re sitting fat recirculates in your bloodstream where it may end up stored as body fat, clogging arteries or contributing to disease.

In fact, simply standing up as opposed to sitting engages muscles and helps your body process fat and cholesterol in a positive way, regardless of the amount of exercise you do.


  • A recent study found sitting time was a predictor of weight gain in Australian women, even after adjustments were made for diet and exercise.
  • Observational studies have showed that not only is total sedentary time important for blood glucose control but also that a larger number of breaks in sedentary time are associated with more favorable metabolic profiles, according to an editorial in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Sitting Increase Your Risk of Premature Death

One of the most revealing new studies, published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, linked sitting time with a greater risk of death in more than 17,000 Canadians.


Don’t Sit … Stretch!

Stretching is an excellent alternative to sitting, and Stretching Toward a Healthier Life on DVD gets our top recommendation for five key reasons:

  1. It presents 15 stretches that stretch all the key muscles groups throughout your entire body (a benefit you will NOT get by just sitting and watching TV!).
  1. It only takes about 15-20 minutes per day total to do the complete stretching.
  1. Stretching expert and host Jacques Gauthier and his wife Dorothee Lavoie demonstrate each stretch in their entirety, including insights on what NOT to do.
  1. In addition to stretching nearly 100% of the muscles in your body, Gauthier chose 15 stretches that you'll find actually feel good and are easy to do (many stretches in other programs are not).
  1. The production quality of the video and sound is excellent. (Many other DVD productions on stretching are not.)

Find out more about Stretching Toward a Healthier Life with FREE SHIPPING for a Limited Time!

Even after accounting for physical activity levels outside of work, body mass index, age, sex, drinking alcohol and smoking, the mortality risk was 1.54 times higher among those who spent almost all of the day sitting compared with those who spent almost no time sitting, the researchers found.

Those who were considered active (at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days a week) had a lower risk of mortality over the 12 years of follow up as well.

Surprisingly, however, only 5 percent of participants compensated for the time they spent sitting at work through exercise. And even among those who did, the risk of premature death increased depending on how much sedentary time they had in their day.

"I don't think it's a very rosy future," Claude Bouchard, the study’s lead author and executive director at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La. told CBC News. "If we combine that [time spent sitting at work] with the growing prevalence of obesity, it's going to mean that just about every developed society is going to be faced with a health care cost bill that has the potential to bankrupt the finances of all of these developed countries."

"The findings of the study also support that physicians should counsel patients to not only increase their level of physical activity and maintain a normal body weight but to reduce the amount of time they spend being sedentary in general and sitting in particular,” Bouchard continued.

Want to Sit Less?

There’s good news. You’ve already accomplished the first step to sitting less, which is realizing that you probably should. Next, take the opportunity to stand rather than sit as often as you can. Stand while watching your kids play at the park, stand while you talk on the phone or watch TV, and definitely take time to move around while you’re at work.

Your body can only tolerate being in one position for about 20 minutes before it starts to feel uncomfortable, according to the Mayo Clinic. About every 15 minutes, stand, walk around or change your position for at least 30 seconds.

You can also incorporate some simple yet highly beneficial stretches into your daily routine. In 15-20 minutes you can even complete Jacques Gauthier’s wonderful Stretching Toward a Healthier Life DVD, which helps you to keep your body out of a sedentary position and moving instead.

The bottom line is this: exercise is a necessary tool to stay healthy -- but it is not enough. You’ve got to spend less time sitting as well. So just as you set goals to fit in your exercise routine everyday, make a commitment to sit less as well. The more you get into the habit of standing, walking, stretching or simply moving instead of sitting, the better you’ll feel and the easier it will be.

And if you need a bit of motivation just remember this: the average person can burn 60 extra calories each hour just by standing instead of sitting!

Recommended Reading

Is Sitting Bad for Your Health … and Waistline? What the Surprising Research Reveals

How to Sit at a Desk All Day and Still be Healthy


Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise April 3, 2009

British Journal of Sports Medicine 2009;43:81-83

CBC News May 6, 2009

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