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February 2014

The Problem with Staying Seated

by Nick A. Titley, M.S., NPI-Certified Posture Specialist

It's common to find the average person seated for long periods during the day; possibly sitting up to eight to twelve hours a day. Whether it's at home, at work or while driving in a car, many people sit for long periods during the day. Sitting seems to be one of the most comfortable and common things we do. However, sitting for long periods can be problematic. There is growing evidence that suggests, that sitting for long periods could be detrimental to our health.

According to a study by the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine, recent analyses of prospective studies have suggested that mortality is adversely associated with television viewing, recreational screen time, sitting during leisure time, sitting in a car, sitting during main activities (e.g. work, school, and housework), and occupations that involve prolonged sitting.

A similar study by the American Journal of Epidemiology also examined time spent sitting and its effect on mortality. The study found that people who sat more than six hours a day could be at higher risk for multiple health concerns and even a higher chance of death. Spending a few hours a week at the gym or doing moderate or vigorous activity doesn't seem to significantly offset the health risks that may accompany prolonged sitting.

In an article by Mayo Clinic, Dr. James Levine explains that sitting for long periods has also been associated with a number of other health concerns, including obesity and metabolic syndrome. Prolonged sitting can also adversely affect your posture, may promote weight gain and can cause lower back pain.

According to the Mayo clinic, on average 50 to 70 percent of people spend six or more hours sitting daily, while 20 to 35 percent of these people, spend four or more hours watching TV. Prolonged sitting is also included in the definition of a sedentary lifestyle.

The Sedentary Behavior Research Network characterizes sedentary behavior as any waking activity characterized by an energy expenditure of less than 1.5 metabolic equivalents, and a sitting or reclined posture.  In general, this means that any time a person is sitting or lying down; they are engaging in sedentary behavior. Common sedentary behaviors also include watching TV, video game playing, computer use or screen time, driving automobiles, and reading. To help maintain good posture and body alignment while sitting, try BackJoy® Sitting Products

Dr. Levine states that the solution to the problem is to spend less time seated and to move more often. If you're looking to sit less and add more activity to your daily routine, consider standing more often. Stand while  speaking on the phone or eating lunch, and try standing more often while at work. If you work at a desk for long periods, then a standing desk, high table or a similar apparatus could suffice. You might also consider taking breaks from sitting to stretch and move your legs, and to maintain good postural alignment while being seated.

Sitting for long periods can be detrimental to our health. Many run the risk of being negatively impacted by health problems such as obesity, lower back pain and bad posture. Prolonged sitting has also been associated with a higher risk of death, making it a serious health concern for many. Standing more often and increasing your amount of daily activity are solutions to this issue, but whatever you choose; sitting less often helps keep you healthier.



  • Lavine, J. D. (2012, June 6). What are the risks of sitting too much?. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/sitting/AN02082
  • Zeratsky, K., & Nelson, J. (2012, July 25). Do you have 'sitting disease'?. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/sitting-disease/MY02177
  • van der Ploeg HP, Chey T, Korda RJ, Banks E, Bauman A. Sitting Time and All-Cause Mortality Risk in 222 497 Australian Adults. Arch Intern Med. 2012;172(6):494-500. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2011.2174. Retrieved from http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/172/4/419.abstract
  • Patel , A., Bernstein, L.,  Deka, A.,  Feigelson, H., Campbell, P.,  Gapstur, S.,  Colditz G., & Thun, M. (2012). Sitting time and all-cause mortality risk in 222 497 Australian adultsArch Intern Med, (172(6)), 494-500. doi: 10.1001/archinternmed.2011.2174. Retrieved from http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1108810
  • Sedentary Behaviour Research Network. 2012. Standardized use of the terms “sedentary” and “sedentary behaviours”. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 37: 540–542. Retrieved from http://www.sedentarybehaviour.org/what-is-sedentary-behaviour/
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