Physician's Weekly
January 14, 2022
Health Consequences of sitting for too long

Q: Doc in last week’s article you mentioned that too much sitting can cause serious health problems. I estimate that I sit 10 hours a day. Please tell me more about how sitting for a long time can affect you?

Unfortunately too many of us sit for protracted periods of time when compared to our parents and grandparents a mere 30-40 years ago. Our sedentary lifestyle has been scientifically proven to be associated with a multiplicity of very serious health issues.

Sitting for extended periods can lead to:

  • Weight gain/ obesity
  • An elevation in blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Abnormally high cholesterol levels
  • The metabolic syndrome – Excess fat around the waistline and an elevated cholesterol
  •  Wasting of large muscles in the legs and buttocks
  • Increased chances of – Heart disease and stroke
  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (lung clots)
  • Developing varicose veins
  • Musculoskeletal joint, back and neck pain
  • Thinning of the bones (osteoporosis)
  • Falls and fractures
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Poor bowel function
  • Certain types of cancer – lung, uterine (womb), breast and colon
  • Sudden death.

There are many situations in our everyday lives which lure us into sitting for long periods:

  • Driving in a vehicle – bus or car
  • Many work environments
  • Looking at TV
  • Using the computer
  • While on the phone – especially non-metered calls on WhatsApp Reading.

While seated we burn much less energy when compared to walking or even standing. We are not absolutely certain why protracted sitting is so bad for one’s health, however, it is postulated that when we sit the largest muscles in our body become inactive. When muscles are not active there is a significant reduction in our overall metabolism including the burning of glucose by these muscles; significantly raising one’s chances of type 2 diabetes. Thirteen studies have shown that if one sits for eight or more hours in any given day, with little to no exercise, one can have poor health outcomes including dying, similar to the smoker or to someone who is overweight. Prolonged sitting is often referred to as “the new smoking”.

In order to counter the negative health effects from sitting it is highly recommended that:

  • You take a 2-3 minute break from sitting every 20-30 minutes. During this break you can stand, walk, stretch or even squat.
  • You try to stand wherever possible while on the phone, reading emails/ reports, or looking at TV.
  •  If in office, rather than call or email a workmate, you should walk over to their work station.
  •  Once convenient, walk instead of driving.
  •  Take your breaks, lunch or otherwise, away from your desk.
  • Use the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Get off the bus one stop before your destination and walk the rest of the distance.
  • Park a distance from where you’re going and walk the remainder of the way.
  • Brisk walking for 30 minutes five days a week helps to counter some of the ill effects from prolonged sitting.
  • Swap TV time with more active pastimes.

Author: Dr. C. Malcolm Grant – Family Physician, c/o Family Care Clinic, Arnos Vale, www.familycaresvg.com, [email protected], 1(784)570-9300 (Office), 1(784)455-0376 (WhatsApp)

Disclaimer: The information provided in the above article is for educational purposes only and does not substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if you are seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. Dr. C. Malcolm Grant, Family Care Clinic or The Searchlight Newspaper or their associates, respectively, are not liable for risks or issues associated with using or acting upon the information provided above.