Why Sitting is Bad (And How to Get Off Your Duff)

why sitting is badSitting for hours on end can hurt more than your back end, say two studies.

British researchers tracked 153 younger and 725 older adults who all had risk factors for diabetes. Each participant wore an accelerometer to measure how much time he or she spent sedentary or engaged in moderate-to-vigorous exercise (like running or brisk walking) for at least a week. The results helped researchers hone in on why sitting is bad for people who are at risk for health problems such as diabetes.


For one study, active breaks from sedentary time included moving from a seated to standing position and other similar activities. People who were sedentary for roughly 12 hours a day had higher blood sugar levels than those who were sedentary for around 9 hours.

Doing less exercise and being overweight also raised the risk of higher blood sugar, but among people with equal levels of exercise or excess weight, those who sat the longest had a higher risk.

More evidence behind the reason why sitting is bad comes to us from Australia. Among more than 63,000 men aged 45 to 64 who were studied by Australian scientists, those who reported sitting for 6 or 7 hours a day were 15 percent more likely to have diabetes than those who said that they sat for less than 4 hours a day. Men who sat for at least 8 hours a day were 20 percent more likely to have diabetes.

What to do if you’ve just discovered you’re sitting too much 

  • Get out of that chair whenever possible, even if it’s only for a few minutes at a time. It can be as simple as standing at your desk, during meetings, or during other activities where it’s feasible.
  • Or reminding yourself to get up and drink a glass of water every hour.
  • Walking to the bus or train (or your destination!) will minimize your time behind the wheel.
  • Don’t spend all your leisure time sitting in front of a TV, computer, or movie screen.
  • And don’t forget aerobic exercise (like brisk walking) and strength training.

What exercises would you add to this list? Have you found an easy way to keep yourself moving? Let us know in the comments.

Sources: Diabetologia 2013. doi:10.1007/s00125-013-2845-9. Int. J. Behav. Nutr. Phys. Act. 2013. doi:10.1186/1479-5868-10-20.

This post was originally published in 2013 and is updated regularly. 

6 Replies to “Why Sitting is Bad (And How to Get Off Your Duff)”

  1. Great Stuff! Good advise! I am a male 75 years young and I walk 10-15 MILES per day, every day! And this includes a lot of walking up hills. I maintain my weight for my age very well with this regimen. A No brainer, it’s easy and fun too. Just walking is amazing, really. You don’t have to walk as much as I do however. It’ll work well at only 5 miles per day. This equates to around ten thousand steps per day. Get living..get moving! Oh, one more thing, I stopped my diabetes dead in it’s tracks, nice…best wishes to all.

    1. Great that you can do that. Working full time often can be a barrier to carving out time to do this, don’t want to wait until I can retire to do this. Contemplating standing at my desk and raising both of my monitors and keyboard. Won’t actually be walking but at least not sitting.

  2. I do have a question. I don’t doubt sitting too much is not healthy. My personal experience is that standing (without much movement) is likewise not healthy, except that there is not much research on motionless standing as there is with sitting. I raise the question because in the workplace there is the ability to sit or stand (or both). Movement is critical, but not easily accomplished. If someone did not move enough during working hours, could about 400 or more minutes of tennis singles/week be sufficient to offset limited movement on the job?

  3. As of today I’ve used my standing computer desk for a week and I would never go back to sitting. I’ve been standing to watch TV for several years so this is not the big change it might be for others. One benefit is that I’m far more likely to walk away from my desk since I don’t have to get up to do it. I, too, would be very interested in seeing research on “motionless standing.” Before buying my new desk I used boxes to elevate my monitor and keyboard so I could be sure it was something I wanted to do. Good luck, y’all.

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