Are you sitting too much?

Back to list 2019-08-22 14:39:39

Most of us already know: we should be more active! In order to stay in good health or simply prevent possible health complication in the future, it is recommended to exercise at least 2h30 per week. Recently, many studies and evidences have also shown that we should spend less time sitting down. In fact, many risks to our health may arise from prolonged sitting and won’t be completely counteracted by going to gym after work.

We spend on average 8h a day sitting down. This can be at work, at home watching TV, or in the metro. In our sedentary modern lifestyle, most of our jobs today requires us to stay at our desk for an entire day which can largely explain the increasing number of people suffering from back pain. Unfortunately, this is not the only potential health concern in relation to prolonged sitting.

According to the World Health Organization, physical inactivity has been identified as the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality (6% of deaths globally). The first 3 factors are high blood pressure, tobacco use and high blood glucose.

Let’s take a look at some of the risks of sitting too long on our health and how to prevent them.


Many studies have shown the connection between sedentary lifestyle and being overweight and obese. When you are sitting for an excessive period, all your metabolism will slow down. Basically, your body is on pause during that time: digestion is not as efficient and fats and sugars are retained in your body.

Indeed, only 1kcal per minute is burned off while sitting, instead of 4kcal while you’re walking. Moreover, other bodily functions such as the blood sugar and blood pressure are affected by this prolonged period of sitting. The blood sugar regulation is slowed down.

According to a study from the University of Cambridge “being sedentary may be twice as dangerous as being obese.” If we could eradicate physical inactivity in the population, we would reduce the number of deaths twice as much as if obesity was eradicated. 


“Diabetes is a disease that occurs when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high. Blood glucose is your main source of energy and comes from the food you eat. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps glucose from food get into your cells to be used for energy. Sometimes your body doesn’t make enough—or any—insulin or doesn’t use insulin well. Glucose then stays in your blood and doesn’t reach your cells.”

When you are sitting down during a long period, your insulin effectiveness can drops by 20%. A recent study has shown that within two weeks of 6 hours a day sitting, the body’s resistance to insulin increases. Physically you will gain weight but what you can’t see is higher blood sugar levels, which can result in Type 2 diabetes.


Blood clotting, or coagulation, is an important process that prevents excessive bleeding when a blood vessel is injured. Sometimes, however, clots form on the inside of vessels without an obvious injury or do not dissolve naturally. These situations can be dangerous and require accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Clots can occur in veins or arteries, which are vessels that are part of the body's circulatory system. While both types of vessels help transport blood throughout the body, they each function differently. Veins are low-pressure vessels that carry deoxygenated blood away from the body's organs and back to the heart. An abnormal clot that forms in a vein may restrict the return of blood to the heart and can result in pain and swelling as the blood gathers behind the clot.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a type of clot that forms in a major vein of the leg or, less commonly, in the arms, pelvis, or other large veins in the body. In some cases, a clot in a vein may detach from its point of origin and travel through the heart to the lungs where it becomes wedged, preventing adequate blood flow. This is called a pulmonary (lung) embolism (PE) and can be extremely dangerous.


If you are suffering from diabetes, your blood is therefore affected and your “bad” cholesterol level increases (+ a higher blood sugar levels). These will obviously also impact your heart and risks of heart disease.

A study has shown that just 2 hours after sitting down, the level of “good” cholesterol drops by 20 percent. Watching TV for 3 hours or more each day makes you 64% likelier to die from heart disease. Experts found that people who are inactive and sit for long periods have a 147% higher risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.


Osteoporosis is a bone disease that occurs when the body loses too much bone, makes too little bone, or both. As a result, bones become weak and may break from a fall or, in serious cases, from sneezing or minor bumps.

Sitting for an excessive period affects your skeleton. Not mentioning the fact that bad posture cause back and neck pain. But inactivity today may have very bad effects when you get older. Our bones renew themselves during all our life. Inactivity means bone mass will decrease at a greater rate.


A very recent study has shown that sitting for four or more hours could put men at a higher risk of developing bowel cancer. Women generally spend less time sitting and have a healthier lifestyle compared to men.

Actually, many studies suggest a link between prolonged sitting and various cancers such as lung, uterine and colon cancers. However, the reasons remain unknown.

An inexistent physical activity coupled with unhealthy habits are definitely a detrimental cocktails to our health.


Most of the studies and evidence are based on observational studies, only showing a link between sitting and all those diseases and risks. However, no direct cause. For example, when you are watching TV you may be smoking, drinking or snacking more. All these behaviors of course also increase the risk of obesity, heart diseases and many cancer as well.

-  Take a break from sitting every 30 minutes.

-  Stand while talking on the phone or watching television.

-  Stand on the train, bus or metro.

-  Enjoy your lunch break: go out, have a walk etc.

-  Set “no screen time” rules for kids to encourage them to be active.

-   If you work at a desk, try a standing desk — or improvise with a high table or counter.

-  Walk with your colleagues for meetings rather than sitting in a conference room.

-  Walk to your colleague’s desk instead of sending an email.

-  Take the stairs and walk up escalators

Physical inactivity is certainly bad for our health and a minimum of 2h30 of exercise per week is greatly recommended to avoid as much as possible any potential health risks. Even if researches are not all agreeing, it seems that if we want to counteract most of the side effects of too much sitting, 60 to 75 minutes of moderately intense physical activity is recommended.

About MSH China

Founded in 2001, MSH China is a French international company specialized in high-end insurance services for corporate and individual clients. Our multicultural International department is dedicated to serve foreigners living in Asia. Leader in China, our reputation has been made from our efficient customer service and call center, a large hospital network and a cost sensitive approach. 



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