Researchers now refer to sitting as the new smoking—meaning that too much sitting is bad for you. How bad? “The risk of heart attack for people who sit for most of the day is about the same if they smoked.”[1]  And by reducing your sitting in half, you can increase your life expectancy by two years![2]

Prolonged sitting raises the risk of disability, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and obesity, which negatively impacts every organ in the body.[3] According to the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, people spend an average of 64 hours a week sitting.[4] That’s over nine hours per day—more than any other activity (or non-activity) that we participate in.

Quiz: Do You Sit Too Much?

Is sitting shortening your life 2If you answer “Yes” to most of these questions, you can pretty well assume that you are a chronic sitter and that sitting is shortening your life.

  1. Do you commute to work in a car or some other form of transportation in which you sit?
  2. Does your job require you to sit for prolonged periods of time?
  3. Do you sit down to eat your meals?
  4. Do you sit to watch TV?
  5. Do you sit down to get onto a computer at home?

You might ask, “Okay, so I’m sitting too much, but what if I jog every day or go to the gym for half an hour?” Going for a run, to the gym, or engaging in some other form of aerobic exercise will always benefit your health.

Unfortunately, according to the experts, spending 1/18 of our sitting time engaged in exercise won’t offset the detrimental effects of sitting.[5] So we need to tackle this problem differently.

Why Is Sitting So Bad For Us?

An extensive study conducted in Germany revealed that for every two hours per day that a person spends sitting in front of a computer or television, they raise their risk of colon cancer by 8 percent; of endometrial cancer by 10 percent and of lung cancer by 6 percent.[6]

So, what is it about sitting that’s so damaging?

First, our bodies are designed for movement. We are created for activity. Life is associated with motion, growth, and vitality, whereas sitting is associated with inactivity, stasis, and dormancy.

4 reasons why sitting is so bad for usSecond, too much sitting impairs the body’s ability to function normally. Sitting impacts the function of good cholesterol (HDLs). As a result, fats remain in the bloodstream, plaque develops and one’s cardiovascular system becomes impaired.[7]

Third, prolonged sitting interferes with physical activity and actually creates a hardship for our bodies.[8] Normal bodily functions like blood circulation and our intestinal tract become impaired. We may experience this hardship in the form of constipation, feeling bloated, or back pain. The problem is that we don’t readily associate those issues with too much sitting, which may be their cause!

Fourth, did you know that sitting puts more pressure on your back than standing does?[9] And when we sit with poor posture, the pressure is increased even more putting strain on our muscles and ligaments. Muscular back pain, headaches and damage to the normal curvature of the spine is often the result.[10]

The Mayo Clinic suggests that the solution to the sitting problem is to find ways to sit less and take the opportunity to move more.[11]

What Steps Can We Take To Sit Less?

Here are 14 ways to reduce your sitting time:

  1. 7 ways to reduce your sitting timeLimit your sitting to 45 or 60 minutes in a given situation and then get up and move around (preferably not to the refrigerator).
  2. Take frequent, short breaks from sitting at work to perform some simple exercise or stretch.
  3. At work, go see a colleague in the same building that you would have otherwise called or emailed.
  4. If possible, ride a bike or walk to work. Or, if you ride the bus, stand.
  5. If you live or work in a multi-story building, take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  6. Replace some of your routine TV or computer time at home with a walk, floor exercises, or a trip to the gym.
  7. Conduct standup or walking meetings.
  8. Get out of the office over lunch and take a walk.
  9. When you’re watching TV, get up at each commercial break and move around.
  10. Spend time playing with your children or grandchildren.
  11. Take up dancing, biking, swimming, Zumba, or some other activity.
  12. Toggle your time between sitting and a standup desk or workstation at work. (Your company may provide this option for you.)
  13. Buy a pedometer (or other fitness tracker) and keep track of your steps during the day. Work up to 10,000 steps or more per day.[12]
  14. In short, look for every opportunity to get up and move around. (I’ve done this four times while writing this article!)

Unlike smoking, there’s no patch I know of to keep you from sitting! But as with quitting smoking, you may experience sitting withdrawal. Obviously, we can’t stop sitting altogether, but we can greatly reduce the amount of time we spend lounging on our derrieres.

By sitting less, standing and moving around more you could add a couple of years to your lifespan! In addition you’ll improve your:[13]

  • Circulation
  • Digestion
  • Cholesterol
  • Blood sugar
  • Posture
  • Pain associated with prolonged sitting

Chances are you’re sitting as you read this. At the close of this article, why not stand up and take a walk. And while you walk, make a mental list of all the ways you can replace sitting with more activity in your life. Take every opportunity to move your body!

What are your strategies to help incorporate more activity during the work day?

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Rob_FischerRob Fischer has been writing professionally for over 35 years. His experience includes writing curricula, study guides, articles, blogs, newsletters, manuals, workbooks, training courses, workshops, and books. Rob has written for numerous churches, for Burlington Northern Railroad, Kaiser Aluminum, and Barton Publishing. He has also trained managers in effective business writing. Rob holds two Master’s degrees, both focused heavily on writing. Rob has published eleven books and serves as an editor and ghostwriter for other authors.



[1] Exposé Entertainment, “Wednesday Wellness—Sitting Is the New Smoking,” 2 July, 2014,
[2] Exposé Entertainment.
[3] Maggie Fox, “Here’s Just How Bad Sitting Around Is for You,” NBC News, June 16, 2014,
[4] Runner’s World, “Sitting Is the New Smoking—Even for Runners,” July 20, 2013,
[5] Runner’s World.
[6] Maggie Fox.
[7] American College of Sports Medicine, “Reducing Sedentary Behaviors: Sitting Less and Moving More,” 2011,
[8] Dysautonomia Youth Network of America, Inc., “The Importance of Physical Activity,” nd,
[9] Amber Keefer, “Back Problems Caused by Bad Posture While Sitting,” Live Strong, August 16, 2013,
[10] Mayo Clinic, “Prevent Back Pain with Good Posture,” nd,
[11] Exposé Entertainment.
[12] American College of Sports Medicine.
[13], “Sit less. Stand More. Start Now. Ergotron Essentials for a Less Sedentary You,” Ergotron, April 4, 2014,