We know sitting too much is bad, and most of us intuitively feel a little guilty after a long TV binge. But what exactly goes wrong in our bodies when we park ourselves for nearly eight hours per day, the average adult? Many things, says Dr Mercola, who detailed a chain of problems from head to toe.

Effects of Sitting Click to enlarge

Effects of Sitting
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Mortality Rates of Sitting Click to enlarge

Mortality Rates of Sitting
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The average person spends more than half their waking hours sedentary, doing such things as working at a computer, watching TV or sitting in traffic. Physical effects such as a strained neck can also result by an incorrect sitting posture. If most of your sitting occurs at a desk at work, craning your neck forward toward a keyboard or tilting your head to cradle a phone while typing can strain the cervical vertebrae and lead to permanent imbalances. Sore Shoulders and Back: The neck doesn’t slouch alone. Slumping forward overextends shoulder and back muscles as well, particularly the trapezius, which connects the neck and shoulders.

Inflexible Spine: When we move, soft discs between vertebrae expand and contract like sponges, soaking up fresh blood and nutrients. But when we sit for a long time, discs are squashed unevenly. Collagen hardens around tendons and ligaments.

Correct way to sit Click to enlarge

Correct way to sit
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Disc Damage: People who sit more are at greater risk for herniated lumbar disks. A muscle called the psoas travels through the abdominal cavity and, when it tightens, pulls the upper lumbar spine forward. Upper-body weight rests entirely on the ischial tuberosity (sitting bones) instead of being distributed along the arch of the spine.

Poor Circulation in Legs: Sitting for long periods of time slows blood circulation, which causes fluid to pool in the legs. Problems range from swollen ankles and varicose veins to dangerous blood clots called deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

Soft Bones: Weight-bearing activities such as walking and running stimulate hip and lower-body bones to grow thicker, denser and stronger. Scientists partially attribute the recent surge in cases of osteoporosis to lack of activity.

Foggy Brain: Moving muscles pump fresh blood and oxygen through the brain and trigger the release of all sorts of brain- and mood-enhancing chemicals. When we are sedentary for a long time, everything slows, including brain function.

While there is no disputing the effects on the body’s muscular and skeletal structure, brought about by an incorrect posture when sitting for long periods, studies on what effect it has on the organs of the body would depend on the level of fitness and the predisposition of the participants.

Several studies on the subject  have found that sitting for prolonged periods raises the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and particularly diabetes. Those who sit for long stretches and get no regular exercise have a much higher risk of an early death. With regular exercise, the risk was smaller but still significant.

However Dr Melvyn Hillsdon, of the University of Exeter,  London says:

“Our study  found that over the long study period, sitting habits had no influence on mortality risk. ‘It overturns current thinking on the health risks of sitting and indicates that the problem lies in the absence of movement rather than the time spent sitting itself.

Any stationary posture where energy expenditure is low may be detrimental to health, be it sitting or standing.’ Policy makers should be cautious in recommending a reduction in the time spent sitting without also promoting increased physical activity.


  1. Nevertoolate says:

    It won’t matter about the length of time you are sitting as long as you keep to your correct weight and maintain a high level of physical fitness. It is never too late to embark on a program. The first thing you will notice is that everything speeds up, you will sleep better, have more energy and an improved feeling of well being.

    • Peter says:

      My problems are not caused by the fact that my job requires me to sit at a desk most of the day. It is my overeating, drinking and lack of exercise that is effecting my health. I have acid reflux which gets worse at night and often wakes me up. My doctor has prescribed medication as well as recommending that I lose 7 kilograms. After several tests, which proved negative, he suggested that part of the problem could be my sedentary life style and advised that I should eat smaller meals and spend more time walking. For the last three weeks my dear wife and I have followed doctor’s advice and have walked at least 5k every morning. I think we are on the right track we have lost weight, both sleeping better and I have less reflux.

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