If you're working in an office glued to your chair most of the day, chances are you're sitting too much.  Taking into consideration that you'll most likely be sitting while travelling home from work and spend a relaxed evening siting in front of TV, it's no wonder that a term evolved to capture the problems associated with this sedentary lifestyle — it's called sitting disease. 

What is sitting disease?

Even though you might not necessarily find the term in a medical dictionary, problems associated with sitting too much are known as "sitting disease".

Various studies have shown that sitting for long periods of time are linked to conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers (breast and colon). It also increase chances of obesity and metabolic syndrome — a cluster of conditions that includes high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels.

Dr. Emma Wilmot, fellow in the Diabetes Research Group at the University of Leicester in the UK, led a study which combined results of 18 studies and included a total of 794 577 participants. According to the study, those who sit for long periods have a two-fold increase in their risk for diabetes, heart disease and death.

Wilmot says: "The average adult spends 50-70 percent of their time sitting, so the findings of this study has far reaching implications. By simply limiting the time that we spend sitting, we may be able to reduce our risk of diabetes, heart disease and death."

What can be done to prevent it?

Endocrinologist James Levine, professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, has done some of the original research and is still investigating the topic. He says physical activity seems to reduce risk by increasing insulin sensitivity, reducing body fat, inflammation and certain hormonal imbalances. However, Levine says that even if you spend a few hours a week at the gym or do any other vigorous activity, it doesn't seem to offset the risk.

He says the solution seems to be less sitting and more moving overall. "You might start by simply standing rather than sitting whenever you have the chance," said Levine.

Tips to fight sitting disease

Easy ways to fight the sitting disease according to the Mayo Clinic is:

    • To simply stand more. They suggest you should be up for 10 minutes of every hour. Set a timer to take regular 'stand breaks'.

    • Consider a standing desk or improvise with a high table or counter.

    • If you enjoy playing video games, rather opt for activity promoting ones where you physically have to do something.

    • Walk while you're on the phone.

    • Get a pedometer to count your steps during the day. Use each day's data as a baseline to try and increase.

    • Take the stairs, even if it is just for two floors. You can catch the lift for the rest of the way.

    • Have walk-and-talk meetings instead of sedentary meetings behind a conference table.

By standing more you do not have to sacrifice productivity. Data suggest that by standing more, productivity may improve.  Levine says the impact of movement —even leisurely movement — can be profound. You'll even burn more calories that will lead to weight loss and increased energy.


    • Mayo Clinic

    • Health24

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