Stand Up or Risk Sitting Yourself to Death: The Silent Perils of Your Chair

It turns out that sitting for long hours can be more dangerous to your health than you might have initially thought. Sitting for hours without moving or standing up can lead to serious health issues, regardless of how much exercise you do during other parts of the day. Standing up is a simple yet effective way to improve your well-being by maintaining a healthy weight and lowering your risk of illness.

The Dangers of Sitting

Research indicates that prolonged sitting is harmful to your well-being, affecting your metabolism and altering your physiology in detrimental ways. According to Marc Hamilton, Ph.D., a researcher and professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia, “The enzymes in the blood vessels of muscles responsible for fat burning are shut off within hours of not standing.” He adds that standing and moving lightly will reactivate these enzymes.

The impacts of prolonged sitting are so significant that even if you exercise regularly, it may not be sufficient to compensate for the negative effects of inactivity. A study from the American Cancer Society discovered that the longer you sit each day, the higher your risk of death, irrespective of how active you may be.

In the study, researchers evaluated the lifestyle habits of over 120,000 participants for roughly 13 years. They found that the amount of time spent sitting was directly related to an individual’s risk of dying during the study. Women who sat for more than six hours daily had a 37% higher chance of dying, compared to those who sat for less than three hours. Men sitting for more than six hours per day had an 18% increased risk of death compared to their counterparts who sat for only three hours each day.

Prolonged sitting has been found to affect heart health and metabolism negatively. According to Alpa Patel, Ph.D., who also participated in this research, “Prolonged time spent sitting, independent of physical activity, has been shown to have important metabolic consequences.”

Taking Breaks

If your occupation requires you to sit for extended periods, your best strategy for coping with this inactive lifestyle is to work standing up or take frequent breaks away from your chair. Research published in the European Heart Journal indicates that the more often you stand up during a mostly seated day, the better your chances are of avoiding heart disease and maintaining a healthy weight.

Genevieve Healy, the leader of this study, states, “For the number of breaks in sedentary time, the most significant differences were observed for waist circumference… The people who took the most breaks had, on average, a 4.1 cm (1.6 inches) smaller waist circumference.” She offers a few practical suggestions for including more standing time at work:

  • Stand up when making phone calls.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Walk to colleagues’ offices for discussions rather than using instant messaging.
  • Use a restroom on another floor.
  • Encourage coworkers to stand during meetings or take regular breaks during conferences.
  • Incorporate walking into your daily routines by placing your printer at a distance.

The Bottom Line

The evidence supports the fact that your chair can be detrimental to your health if you don’t take measures to stand up regularly. By incorporating more standing time and movement into your daily routines, you can offset some of the negative impacts of sitting for extended periods. So, get up on your feet and take a stand for your health and well-being!