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Adverse Health Effects of Long Sedentary Periods of Time

Invalid Date · Colin Zhang

The adverse effects of sitting for long periods have long been known, and this is rather much the reason you are seeing a growing number of the workforce seeking to work more flexibly, such as getting the freedom or an option to stand up more during lengthy sedentary working hours.

And let us not forget that in the science community, it is assumed long sedentary time is correlated with risks below: 

-Diabetes mellitus,

-Cardiovascular disease,

-Cancer (colorectal cancer and breast cancer specifically)

-Death at an early age,

-Obesity, etc.

And the list could go on and on, and you could keep scrolling down and down.

Let's dive deeper with specifics.

1. Heart Disease

Inactivity puts you at high risk of heart attack and cardiovascular diseases – this is just the ugly truth. The World Health Organization urges proactive behaviors against obesity and coronary heart disease in the form of standing and movement (instead of long sitting). Increased circulation is less likely to result in clotting or blockage.

2. Blood Sugar and Diabetes

Sitting for extended periods after a meal has been linked to a greater risk of type 2 Diabetes.

3. Obesity

36% of people in America are dangerously obese. That's an epidemic, and a morbid one at that. Standing and moving more can significantly reduce weight gain, and circulation flow leads to increased calorie-burning action. With everything circulating, the metabolism springs into action and leads to quicker digestion of food and lowered cholesterol levels, therefore reducing obesity.

What else?

Health studies also show that people leading sedentary lives or sitting for prolonged durations of time are at a higher risk of suffering from diseases mentioned above and have a reduced life span. A combination of those diseases is termed as “sitting disease”.

To Step Away From The Sitting Risks

A quick answer to this: Stand up more when at work or home.

A comprehensive study by Occupational & Environmental Medicine presented an attenuated blood glucose excursion by 43% in those who stood for a few hours at work instead of sitting statically. This is one of the leading studies to draw a link between standing work and a decreased risk of cardiometabolic diseases.

When a diabetic blood sugar returns to normal quickly, they are less likely to experience dangerous symptoms. 

As you can see, there's a vast set of benefits of standing while working. It also seems that the more people start seeing these benefits, the more likely they are to choose standing as their preferred working state. 

While in fact, standing during work hours even for about half an hour intervals would have a major boost on the general wellness.


Benefits To Break Lengthy Sittings Periods? 

1. Reduces Musculoskeletal Disorders

Neck and Back pains are some of the Musculoskeletal disorders many office workers end up suffering from.

For instance, back pains by office employees have been reported in about 80% of the workers who especially sit all day. And a project done in 2011 showed that participants who spend about 66 minutes of work time standing experience reduced lower and neck pain by 54%.

2. Lowers heart disease risk

For over 60 years, researchers have been carrying out a study on the benefits of standing at work. In 1953, it was found out that workers who stand the whole day have reduced risks of suffering from heart-related diseases. On the contrary, employees who live sedentary lifestyles have a 90% rise of increased chances of getting cardiovascular diseases. This may be attributed to the fact that standing helps in burning more calories as opposed to working while sitting. Weight loss ensures that the workers live healthy hence staying productive for long.

3. Reduced cases of obesity

In general, weight gain and hence obesity is normally associated with the consumption of more calories as compared to the amount of calories the body is burning. Many office workers are presently complaining that they have gained massive weight in their jobs. The good thing is that most of them have embraced the idea of standing while working, by which up to 50 extra calories can be burned in every working hour. In a year’s time, you can burn up to 3,000 calories which are approximately about 8 lbs of fat.

4. Reduced risks of diabetes 2

It is normal for blood sugar levels to rise after a meal, persons whose blood sugar levels are high stand a risk of getting diabetes. However, a poor lifestyle would mean that these blood sugars are stored as energy repositories in the body. Cumulatively, they may lead to poor health, diabetes 2. A study carried out in 2013 showed a reduction of blood sugar levels by 43% amongst workers using adjustable desks.

5. Boosts mood and energy

Durations of sitting increase sedentary time and has been closely associated with anxiety and depression. This would support the ideology behind standing as a way of enhancing mood and increasing happiness.   

In a Take-a-stand project that was conducted in 2011, about 24 workers were given a adjustable desk. In a period of about 4 weeks, the participants reported an improvement in mood states having reduced their sitting durations by 66 minutes. 


Last Thought

It is recommended to have your standing and sitting postures shifted, most preferably, in every other hour, if it fits your condition perfectly.

A tip for this working pattern may be: It is best to start from 30 to 60 minutes a day and gradually increase it within a reasonable range and experiment with different time intervals to find the one that suits you best.

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Last Updated:May 24, 2024
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