Health Department

Health Effects of Sitting

Health Effects of Sitting

Health Article by Larry D. Jones, MPH, Health Director

May 14, 2013

You probably already know that regular physical activity is good for your health. But did you know that sitting for long periods of time is actually bad for you? Prolonged sitting has been linked to increased risk for obesity, cancer, type II diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and premature death. Research has shown that a person who sits for 11 hours or more per day has a 40% higher chance of dying within the next three years when compared with someone who only sits for 4 hours per day or less. The increased risk due to sitting is separate from the health risks from other lifestyle-related factors, such as excess weight, smoking, or high blood pressure.

As you may know, experts recommend that adults get at least 30 minutes of physical activity on five days out of the week. (Kids should get at least an hour of physical activity each day.) But we’re now learning that sitting for prolonged periods of time is risky to your health, even if you are getting the recommended amount of physical activity.

For those of you who spend most of your day seated at a desk, there are a few things you can do to counter the negative effects of sitting. Try standing up while making a phone call. If possible, rearrange your work space so that computer work won’t require you to sit for hours on end, perhaps incorporating an adjustable workstation that enables you to alternate between sitting and standing (these do exist!). Try sitting on a stability ball, if you can—you’ll use more of your muscles and counteract some of the negative effects of sitting.

Short “activity breaks” are also a good idea—set a goal, and an alarm if you need a reminder, to stand up or walk around for at least a few minutes out of every hour. Standing or walking meetings are a great way to break the sitting routine. A brisk walk around the block with a co-worker might be just what you need to get your creative juices flowing during a brainstorming session.

Look for ways to reduce the time you spend sitting down while you’re not at work, too. Stand up while waiting for an appointment, while on the phone, or during the commercials. Better yet, do some spring cleaning, take the dog for a walk, or plant a garden!

Incorporating more physical activity into our daily routine is a good idea for all of us. One way to do that this summer and fall is to join health department staff as we walk each Wednesday morning. Back by popular demand, “The Mile Starts Here” will begin at 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday May 15 at the Independence Athletic Complex (17800 E. Salisbury Road). Each week we’ll alternate between several routes throughout Independence, each approximately a mile long. We’ll walk each Wednesday morning from May 15 through the end of October (weather permitting), and hope you’ll join us!

To learn more about the health effects of sitting, visit and search for “prolonged sitting”. For more details on The Mile Starts Here, call 325-7185 or go to