Everything you need to know about harmful effects of sitting

By Patrick Delorme, Bilingual Health Promotion Consultant

We sit in our cars, in our offices, on our couches and more. In the 21st century, we travel long hours in our cars; we spend long periods of time in front of our computer; and to relax afterwards, we sit on the couch to spend hours watching TV. While you may feel comfortable in this position, if you do it too much, it may be harmful.

Recent studies show that extended sitting can lead to various health concerns including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and even death. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), physical inactivity was found to be the main cause of about 25 per cent of breast and colon cancers, 27 per cent of diabetes cases, and 30 per cent of heart disease cases.

People who sit for long periods of time, every day, without regular breaks are more likely to gain weight as they burn less calories. Hence, they are prone to becoming obese. In fact, research shows that obese individuals sit for an average of 2 hours longer each day than lean people do.1

I have more bad news; the majority of evidence suggests that prolonged sitting may increase the risk of dying early. Sitting for long hours is so bad for our health that it has been compared to smoking. Another reason the smoking analogy is relevant is that studies have consistently shown the effects of long-term sitting are not reversible even with daily exercise.

Overall, the solution seems to be less sitting and more moving. Start simply by standing rather than sitting whenever you have the chance or think about ways to walk while you work. For example:

-    Stand while talking on the phone or eating lunch.
-    If you work at a desk for long periods of time, try a standing desk — or improvise with a high table or counter as my wife does.
-    Stand when taking public transportation and any other places where you can

Finally, if you have to sit long hours think twice. Your health is important!

Beware of the chair!

To learn more about harmful effects of long hours sitting consult:

Too Much sitting: The Population- Health Science of Sedentary Behavior

Don't just sit there!

[1] Interindividual variation in posture allocation: possible role in human obesity. Science, 2005 Jan 28; 307(5709):584-6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15681386