(This post is a first in a three-part series on Sitting.)

If you’re a knowledge worker (and that’s most of us) today, chances are that you’re sitting more than you should. Spending long hours sitting in front of your computer isn’t healthy. A typical professional works 40 hours (or more) a week (and that’s a conservative estimate) — that’s 8 hours a day, and that’s just the time we spend working. Also, think about the eating time, commute time, sitting-at-home time, etc. It all adds up quickly.

For most of us, sitting has become as normal as breathing. We do it all day long without thinking twice about it. You’re probably doing it right now while reading this post. We now sit down every day for longer than we sleep. Think about this for a minute. This is unprecedented in the history of mankind.

We were never meant to sit longer than we sleep. Our bodies were designed for moving (not sitting) from the prehistoric days. Due to the demands of the 21st century lifestyle, sitting has become the default behavior for us knowledge workers.

Unfortunately for many of us, quitting the computer isn’t an option.

All this to say: excessive sitting is bad, and there’s plenty of scientific reasons to back this up.

Various research/studies have linked extended periods of sitting with an increased risk of death:

According to American Cancer Society, excessive sitting is associated with increased chances of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even cancer.

Gretchen Reynolds, a wellness-columnist for The New York Times, and author of the book The First 20 Minutes, offers us some startling insights into the dangers of excessive sitting:

Sitting for long periods of time — when you don’t stand up, don’t move at all — tends to cause changes physiologically within your muscles. You stop breaking up fat in your bloodstream, you start getting accumulations of fat… in your liver, your heart and your brain. You get sleepy. You gain weight. You basically are much less healthy than if you’re moving.

According to an IU study, sitting for long periods of time is associated with risk factors such as higher cholesterol levels and greater waist circumference that can lead to cardiovascular and metabolic disease.

According to an interview with Michael Usher on 60 Minutes, as soon as you sit down, the following events take place:

The enzymes that help break down fat drop by 90%. Insulin effectiveness and HDL (good cholesterol) levels drop. Your blood pressure rises. Your leg muscles switch off. Pressure is placed on your neck and spine. The chances of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases increases, and risk to your heart increases.

And if those facts weren’t enough to convince you of the dangers of excessive sitting, here’s a few more disturbing links:

  • Sitting for more than 11 hours on a daily basis increases the chances of death by 40% or more.
  • Blood clots are more likely to form in your brain from excessive sitting.
  • Excessive sitting has also been linked to colon and breast cancer.

Also, keep in mind that performing regular exercise is not enough to offset the negative effects from excessive sitting. The effects from excessive sitting are even worse when combined with no physical activity. At the very least, some kind of physical activity like exercise is a prerequisite to sitting less, and not a substitute for it. Reducing sitting time is as essential as performing physical activity of some kind, if not more.

What remains unclear is the amount of physical activity needed to offset the health risks associated with long sedentary time.

In the end, it’s more about sitting less than moving more. Sitting less just happens to be a byproduct of moving more but more on that in the next post.

The fact is that excessive sitting is killing us slowly. Unless we do something about it now, we’ll pay the ultimate price sooner than later.

In the next post, I wrote about ways you can sit less.

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