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Study Links Long-term Sitting to Chronic Disease

  • Rick Pantaleo

A recently published study has linked prolonged sitting time with the likelihood of developing chronic diseases.

A recently published study has linked prolonged sitting time with the likelihood of developing chronic diseases.

The more you sit each day, the greater your risk of developing a chronic disease, according to a new study.

Researchers from Australia and the United States say prolonged sitting increases the likelihood of developing potentially deadly diseases and conditions such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.

“For some of these conditions...we saw this kind of stair step increase that, at the high levels of sitting you saw higher odds of having the disease, certainly that was true for diabetes," says Richard Rosenkranz from Kansas State University. "And then we saw increased risk at higher levels for high blood pressure as well as for any chronic disease.”

The World Health Organization blames sedentary lifestyles for approximately two million deaths each year and considers physical inactivity to be one of the 10 leading causes of death and disability worldwide.

The study also revealed that exercising every morning for 30 minutes doesn't alleviate the risk if a person spends the next eight hours sitting at a desk.

“We’re trying to say that, not only do we need to continue to tell these messages about getting in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity like walking or cycling or some exercise at the gym," Rosenkranz says, "we also need to be thinking about finding ways not to sit so much during the day.”

Many of today’s job opportunities have shifted from requiring physical effort to mostly involving sitting and working at a desk all day. However, office work isn’t the only type of occupation that requires prolonged sitting. The researchers also singled out truck drivers who are forced to sit for long periods of time.

Rosencranz has developed a plan to alleviate his own personal risk.

"I have a sit/stand workstation where in two seconds I can go from sitting to standing," he says. "I just move all of my monitors, slide it up on this thing and I can stand and work for a while and break up the periods of sitting.”

While he's found a personal solution, Rosenkranz believes health problems brought on by physical inactivity need to be addressed on a much broader scale.

“We’re going to have to realize as a society that having a lot of people sitting around all the time is a health risk and it’s going to cost us money, it’s going to cost us quality of life and we’re going to have to do something about that," he says. "And so there will be, I believe, social norm changes, cultural changes where it’s OK in a meeting to get up and stand up or stand in the back of the room, take a break from just sitting on our duffs [posteriors] all the time.”