Is Sitting Bad For You? The Risks of a Sedentary Lifestyle

Sarah Lemire

Americans are doing a lot of sitting. According to a study published on the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) website, one in four adults sits for at least eight hours each day, if not more. For many people, those hours are spent behind an office desk or working from home.

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That’s bad news considering that along with habits like smoking and heavy drinking, a sedentary lifestyle is one of the biggest risk factors for chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

According to the American Cancer Society, it takes at least an hour of daily physical activity, like doing an easy workout at home, to offset the increased health risks that come from too much sitting.

Too much time at your desk can also take a toll on your muscles, according to Dr. Brionn Tonkin, who is an assistant professor and residency program director in the department of rehabilitation medicine at the University of Minnesota.

“With the sedentary worker, your knees are out in front of you, you’re sitting up, and so the muscles on the front side of your hips are not getting stretched. The longer you sit in that position, the muscles can slowly shrink and contract,” he said.

So, if you make it a habit to sit for hours at your desk without getting up or taking breaks, you might want to add that to the list of bad habits to ditch and get up from your seat.

Leaving work to take a walk or breaking a sweat by doing a low-impact workout during lunch may not be possible, so Tonkin suggests that, at the very least, you should get up and move around once an hour.

“If you have the ability to stand up, to stretch, to extend your back, maybe walk up and down your hallway, that’s better than nothing,” he said.

Tonkin also recommends doing a more comprehensive stretching program either when you get home or in the mornings, incorporating these stretches you should be doing every day.