Fitness and Training

Is Too Much Sitting Bad for Your Health?

The human body is built for movement. The ancient Greeks and Romans recognized the importance of physical activity for proper health, and modern medicine has confirmed the links between regular exercise and disease prevention. But it wasn’t until relatively recently that sitting and other sedentary behaviors emerged as threats to public health.

So-called “sitting diseases,” which are health issues linked to sitting and inactivity, are now a major area of research. And there’s ample evidence that spending too much of your time motionless — even if you exercise regularly — raises your risks for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and premature death, according to an editorial published in 2022 in BMJ. There is also evidence that it raises your risk for mental health conditions such as depression, according to a cohort study published in January 2023 in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

Our evolution and genetic makeup dictate that humans are made to move,” says Emmanuel Stamatakis, PhD, professor of physical activity, lifestyle, and population health at the University of Sydney in Australia. “While sitting motionless, our bodies and minds degenerate and age quickly, leading to chronic disease and premature death.”

Dr. Stamatakis has pushed for public health authorities to issue formal warnings and guidelines about the risks of too much sedentary time. Many other researchers in the field have done the same, according to a review published in 2019 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Also worrisome: Stamatakis says some of the more recent findings suggest that while sitting is bad, standing in one place (for example, at a stand-up desk) and other forms of inactivity may not be all that much healthier.

“Movement is the key,” he says. “Standing can be a part of a healthy activity pattern but, on its own, it is unlikely to lead to substantial benefits and cannot improve fitness.”The theory here is straightforward. Your body is built for movement, and spending too much time not moving can cause a wide range of negative health effects. That seems to be true even if you’re exercising regularlyThe bad effects of inactivity seem to be separate from the good effects of exercise,” says Edward Coyle, PhD, a professor and director of the Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin. “Even if you meet the current guidelines for exercise, if you otherwise sit all day long, you still seem to be at increased risk for heart disease and death.

Current guidelines recommend that adults get at least 150 to 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, according to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

Dr. Coyle says exercise is still absolutely necessary and healthy. But just as exercise won’t protect you from the harms of smoking, it also can’t wholly offset the risks of spending all your nonexercise time sitting or in other sedentary behaviors.

“‘Sitting is the new smoking’ was a popular saying for a while,” he points out. “I think there’s some validity to that,” he adds, adding that smoking is almost certainly more dangerous than sitting.

Source: everydayhealth