Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Fitness & Exercise

Font Size

Prolonged Sitting Boosts Bad Health

Daily Inactivity, Not Just Lack of Exercise, Could Be Making You Sick
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Jan. 19, 2010 -- If you are reading this while sitting down, you might want to stand up for moment.

A new editorial published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that people who sit still for prolonged periods of time -- such as desk workers or couch potatoes -- have a higher risk of disease than those who move a muscle every now and then in a non-exercise manner, such as walking up the stairs to grab a cup of coffee.  

Prolonged sitting promotes a lack of whole-body muscle movement, which the Swedish-based researchers say is the more correct way to define sedentary behavior. Many people mistakenly believe the term “sedentary” refers to people who do not exercise. But the research team proposes that sedentary behavior is instead a distinct class of behaviors, unrelated to a lack of exercise, that boost bad health. Behaviors can include habits like TV watching. For example, recent evidence has shown that sitting in front of the TV for hours on end can raise your risk of early death from heart disease. A woman’s risk of metabolic syndrome, a precursor to diabetes and heart disease, jumps 26% for every extra hour she sits in front of the TV, according to one cited study. Whole-body muscular inactivity associated with prolonged sitting has also been strongly linked to obesity and even certain types of cancer.

Although the cause-effect relationship between prolonged sitting and bad health needs to be more clearly established, researchers say it appears that muscle movement and contractions may play a role in controlling important blood fats.

The editorialists warn that the health of people who are glued to the TV or tied to a desk for extended periods is especially at risk if they forgo exercise altogether.

They encourage health care practitioners to emphasize the importance of simple, non-exercise activities, and how such simple movements may ward off bad health. “Climbing the stairs, rather than using elevators and escalators, five minutes of break during sedentary work, or walking to the store rather than taking the car will be as important as exercise,” the team says in a news release.

Healthy Living Tools

Ditch Those Inches

Set goals, tally calorie intake, track workouts and more, all via WebMD’s free Food & Fitness Planner.

Get Started

Today on WebMD

Wet feet on shower floor tile
Slideshow
Flat Abs
Slideshow
 
Build a Better Butt Slideshow
Slideshow
woman using ice pack
Quiz
 

man exercising
Article
7 most effective exercises
Interactive
 
Man looking at watch before workout
Slideshow
Overweight man sitting on park bench
Video
 
6-Week Challenges
Want to know more?
Chill Out and Charge Up Challenge – How to help your tribe de-stress and energize.
Spark Change Challenge - Ready for a healthy change? Get some major motivation.
I have read and agreed to WebMD's Privacy Policy.
Enter cell phone number
- -
Entering your cell phone number and pressing submit indicates you agree to receive text messages from WebMD related to this challenge. WebMD is utilizing a 3rd party vendor, CellTrust, to provide the messages. You can opt out at any time.
Standard text rates apply

pilates instructor
Slideshow
jogger running among flowering plants
Video
 
woman walking
Article
Taylor Lautner
Article