Sitting down all day with no physical activity can increase a person’s risk of developing health conditions, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer. Staying physically active can help to reduce this risk.
Physical activity is a crucial part of keeping the body healthy. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that Americans spend between
Office workers, for example, may sit at a desk for hours at a time. Common pastimes, such as reading, watching television, or playing computer games, can also involve sitting down for long periods.
This article will explain what happens to the body when someone sits down for too long, how long is too long to sit down, and how to avoid and prevent the consequences of a sedentary lifestyle.
Sitting down for long periods, with little physical activity, is part of what doctors call a sedentary lifestyle. The
Sitting all day without adequate physical activity can also impact a person’s sleep quality, mental health, physical and cognitive abilities, and bone health.
There is no hard and fast answer to the question of how many hours of sitting is unhealthy. It is different for everyone and can depend on factors such as how much exercise a person does each day.
According to the charity Just Stand, the following thresholds determine a person’s risk of developing health problems due to sitting:
- Low risk: Sitting for less than 4 hours per day.
- Medium risk: Sitting for 4–8 hours per day.
- High risk: Sitting for 8–11 hours per day.
- Very high risk: Sitting for more than 11 hours per day.
The CDC considers
Prolonged sitting can impact the body in various ways. This can include:
A 2018 study suggests an association between prolonged sitting and musculoskeletal discomfort. Areas that people may experience discomfort in include:
- lower limbs
- lower back
- wrist and hand
This study examined the effects of sitting for 2 hours. It found that discomfort levels in all body areas rose as time increased.
Metabolism is the process by which the body breaks down and uses energy. A
Researchers in this article recommend regular activity breaks to improve metabolism when sitting for long periods.
Changes to blood flow
According to the same
6.3% of office workers in the study experienced blood pressure above 140/90 mmHg. The
A 2018 article highlights associations between prolonged sitting and certain musculoskeletal disorders of the lower limbs.
- lower back
The same 2018 study that monitored people sitting for 2 hours suggests that prolonged sitting has a negative impact on perceived mental state and creative problem-solving abilities.
Getting active is the best way to treat the effects or prevent the consequences of sitting all day.
Moderate-intensity activity might include:
- brisk walking
- water aerobics
- riding a bike on level ground
People can start with less vigorous exercises and build their stamina over time.
Anyone who experiences the symptoms of a health condition related to sitting down for long periods should speak with a doctor.
Anyone who already has a health condition, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, or osteoporosis, may wish to speak with their doctor before starting a new exercise regime.
Healthcare professionals will usually be able to offer personalized advice on the best way to approach getting active or increasing activity levels.
Staying active is the best way to avoid the consequences of sitting down all day. This can involve getting at least
For example, a
People who work in offices can try to avoid sitting down all day by:
- asking for sit-and-stand desks or workstations
- alternating between standing and sitting every 30 minutes
- having walking meetings
- regularly stretching while sitting or standing
- walking to speak with a colleague instead of sending an email
Some frequently asked questions about the health impact of sitting down for too long include:
Is sitting for 8 hours bad for you?
The charity Just Stand classes sitting for between 4 and 8 hours a day as a medium risk of associated health complications. It considers sitting between 8 and 11 hours a day to be high risk.
Can you die from sitting for too long?
Sitting down all day is part of what doctors call a sedentary lifestyle. According to the
A 2017 article suggests people who spend long periods sitting down for work have an almost
Sitting all day and not getting any physical activity may increase a person’s risk of developing a range of health conditions, including heart conditions, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer. It can also impact sleep patterns and mental health.
However, there are things people can do to lower the risks to their health. These include being more physically active overall and breaking up long periods of sitting down by moving around.