Feb 09 2012

Are you sitting yourself to death at work and home?

Category: peopleUlrich Palha @ 11:20 am

Sitting six or more hours per day in your leisure time can increase your chances of dying up to 40%[1]. A growing body of research[1],[2],[3] shows an association with increased sitting, both at home and work, and mortality, even if you are exercising regularly.

If you work in the information technology industry or almost any other job in an office setting, you probably sit for most of the day, whether it is time spent in front of the computer, in meetings or sitting down for lunch. Add to that the sitting while commuting, watching TV or browsing the internet at home, while reading, or in conversation and you could very well be sitting for over 9 hours a day (the British average over 14 hours per day[4]).

People who sit for most of the day are 54 percent more likely to die of heart attacks [1]

If you are sitting less than 20% of the day or just under 5 hours total a day, then you need not be as concerned[5].
However, if you sit for over 30% of the day, or just over 7 hours, the bad news is that these studies suggest that it could shorten your lifespan.

What can I do to reduce the negative effects of sitting?

The good news is that there are several easy steps you can take to reduce the negative effects of sitting.

  1. Become more aware of when you are sitting

  2. Becoming more aware of when you are sitting and for how long will allow you to make a conscious choice not to sit or reduce the time you spend seated.

  3. Look for for opportunities to stand

  4. Once you start looking for opportunities to stand, or to stand longer, you will notice them everywhere you go:

    On your commute:
    – Offer up your seat to someone on your commute
    – walk/bike to work;
    – take the stairs instead of the elevator
    At work:
    – Stand up while talking on the phone, reading, thinking
    – Stand at meetings (another reason to go to daily stand ups)
    – walk to the cooler/restroom/printer farthest from you
    – walk over to talk to someone (vs email/phone) and stand while having the conversation
    At home
    – walk over to the TV/Stereo instead of always using the remote
    – go for walk
    – if you have kids, engage in some active play
    – mow the lawn and do other house work that involves standing

  5. Take regular breaks from sitting

  6. Experts suggest that if you simply take a break from inactive sitting every 20 to 30 minutes[2],[7], you can reduce the negative effects of prolonged sitting. This could be as easy as standing up and walking a few steps, stretching, even bending down to tie your shoelace[6]

    We recommend getting up at least every 30 minutes and regular changes in posture [7]

    If you are using the Pomodoro technique, you can stand and/or walk every Pomodoro. If not, you could set a recurring Outlook reminder or use one of the many free alarm clock applications to remind yourself to get up every 20-30 minutes.

  7. Take an extended break from sitting

  8. If you want to take it a step further, and you can convince your employer, you can stop sitting at work altogether and get a standing desk. People have reported feeling more energetic, having higher productivity, and even losing weight after switching to a standing desk[8],[9] .

    If the cost of a standing desk is too high, or you want to sit/stand, there are cheaper solutions that can be retrofitted on your existing desk.


If you spend more than 7 hours a day sitting, you could be increasing your risk for mortality, but there are numerous ways to mitigate the health risks associated with extended, inactive sitting.

Which ones are you using?

References/Further Reading

  1. Leisure Time Spent Sitting in Relation to Total Mortality in a Prospective Cohort of US Adults Retrieved Friday, February 10, 2012
  2. Standing up for a longer life Retrieved Friday, February 9, 2012
  3. Sitting time and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Retrieved Friday, February 10, 2012
  4. Britons spend more than 14 hours a day sitting down Retrieved Friday, February 10, 2012
  5. Sitting time and risk of early death Retrieved Friday, February 10, 2012
  6. Is Sitting a Lethal Activity Retrieved Friday, February 10, 2012
  7. Why your desk job is slowly killing you Retrieved Friday, February 10, 2012
  9. One Year at My Standing Desk Retrieved Friday, February 10, 2012

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