Scientists were first tipped off to the detrimental effects of a sedentary lifestyle when they found that bus conductors had a far lower risk of cardiovascular problems than bus drivers did, despite the fact that the two groups lived almost identical lifestyles: besides the fact that bus drivers spent far more of their day sitting!Other studies have found that people who were more sedentary had a 49 percent higher risk of all cause mortality, and that people who sat for more than 11 hours daily had a 40 percent greater chance of dying within three years than those who sat for fewer than four hours.Unfortunately, the average American spends an astonishing 7.7 hours per day sedentary, which amounts to about 54.9 percent of their time awake. This isn't so surprising considering that many of us sit for up to 8 hours a day at work. If you rack up another two or three in front of your TV, during your commute, or while using your computer at home, that disastrous 11 hours is actually pretty easy to hit.Vigorous activity undertaken during one's non-sedentary hours does seem to attenuate the risks of a sedentary lifestyle somewhat, but not entirely, even in people who exercised for as much as an hour a day!One huge problem with sitting is the simple fact that you burn 30 percent more calories while standing than while sitting, a difference big enough to result in a large calorie surplus over time that it could significantly raise your risk of obesity.

Yet the detrimental metabolic effects of sitting don't end there. Since all of your largest muscles are relaxed while you are sitting, they use up far less glucose, contributing to the problems in your body's insulin sensitivity that characterize metabolic syndrome.

In fact, there is a direct correlation between time spent sedentary and your risk of diabetes. Our bodies seem to have evolved to be in more or less, so prolonged sitting can also cause our muscles to weaken from lack of use, reducing our mobility and increasing our risk of osteoporosis.

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Your heart is also not working very hard while you are sitting, increasing your risk of cardiovascular problems. The poor circulation encouraged by a sedentary lifestyle can then increase your risk of blood clots and deep vein thrombosis, a condition that doesn't always present with any detectable symptoms yet can sometimes be fatal.

This poor circulation can also encourage the formation of unsightly and painful varicose veins, which are caused by blood pooling in the affected area (usually the legs). Prolonged sitting also tends to lead to poor posture as well as to tightening in muscles like your hip flexors and hamstrings, both of which can contribute to back and knee problems.

Finally, sitting seems to be detrimental to your mental health as well as your physical well-being. People who spent more than 6 hours a day sitting were found to be more likely to report psychological distress, and people who reported sitting more during their leisure time reported significantly reduced well-being.

This could be partially due to the fact that the activities we do while sitting tend to be less engaging and satisfying compared to more active pursuits. So, replacing some of your couch time with more active hobbies, even those that are not exactly "exercise" such as gardening, active volunteer work, or bowling, might be a good way to give yourself an easy mood boost!

Sedentary activities like television-watching can also encourage you to eat mindlessly, so getting up and about could benefit your waistline in more ways than one. At the very least, you could try to turn some of your screen-time into time spent playing active video games.

If you do end up in front of your TV, you can try watching it while standing rather than sitting, or at the very least getting up to do some quick exercises during the commercials!


If you have a sedentary job, you could try encouraging yourself to move more throughout the day by sitting on a stability ball or investigating other forms of active seating, but not even the healthiest chair or best posture can fully attenuate the risks of prolonged sitting.

Experts actually recommend standing up at work for two to four hours per day, which you could do with the help of a formal standing, kneeling, or treadmill desk or by creatively rearranging your workstation to allow for more varied postures. You could also try taking your phone calls standing up and volunteering to go on any active office errands.

If more time standing is out of the question for you, you should aim to spend five minutes moving for every half hour you spend sitting. Yet even a one or two minute activity break is better than nothing; something as small as a little stretching or a short trip around your floor could make a big difference if you stick with it! If your problem is remembering to get up and about, try setting a timer to remind yourself.

If all these recommendations seem daunting, you could start by aiming to cut back on your sedentary time by as few as 15 to 20 minutes per day and gradually increasing your goal once you've gotten more comfortable with a higher activity level. You could also give yourself a push in the right direction by purchasing a fitness tracker or downloading a step counting app, since just keeping an eye on how much you're moving could motivate you to become more active over time.

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