How does sitting down all day affect your body?

Posted in , , , by Miss Kornelija Dedelaite

A person’s chance of getting diseases including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and several types of cancer can rise if they spend their whole day sitting down with little physical activity. Maintaining an active lifestyle can lower this risk.

The body needs to be physically active to remain healthy. However, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Americans spend an average of 6.5 to 8 hours a day sitting down.

For instance, office workers may spend hours at a desk. Sitting down for extended periods of time can also be a part of popular pastimes like reading, watching television, or playing computer games.

This article will discuss the effects of prolonged sitting on the body, the appropriate amount of time to spend sitting, and ways to mitigate these effects.

How many hours of sitting down is actually bad for you?

What doctors refer to as a sedentary lifestyle includes spending a lot of time sitting down and doing little physical activity. According to the CDC, leading a sedentary lifestyle without any physical activity raises one’s risk of contracting illnesses like:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Some types of cancer, including cancer of the colon, breast, and uterus

A person’s sleep, emotional health, physical and cognitive abilities, and bone health can all suffer from spending all day sitting still without getting enough exercise.

How many hours of sitting per day are harmful? There is no clear-cut answer. It varies from person to person and may be influenced by things like how much activity a person gets daily.

The likelihood of acquiring health issues as a result of sitting is determined by the following thresholds, according to the nonprofit organisation Just Stand:

  • Low risk: Sitting for less than 4 hours per day.
  • Medium risk: Sitting for 4–8 hours per day.
  • High risk: Sitting for 8–11 hours per day.
  • Very high risk: Sitting for more than 11 hours per day.

According to the CDC in the US and the UK government both agree that 150 minutes per week of moderate activity is sufficient to reduce the risk of various health issues linked to a sedentary lifestyle.

How does prolonged sitting affect your body?

Long periods of sitting can have a variety of effects on the body. This may consist of:

Discomfort in body parts:

According to a 2018 study, extended sitting can lead to musculoskeletal discomfort. People may feel uneasy in the following areas:

  • Neck/shoulders
  • Lower back
  • Buttocks
  • Thighs
  • Hands/wrists

The consequences of two hours of sitting were investigated in this study. It was discovered that as time passed, discomfort levels increased throughout the body.


According to a cross-sectional study from 2017, prolonged sitting raises blood pressure, or hypertension.

In the study, 6.3% of office workers had blood pressure that was higher than 140/90 mmHg. This is stage 2 hypertension, according to the American Heart Association.

Slower metabolism:

The process by which the body metabolises and utilises energy is called metabolism. The metabolism after eating may be impacted by prolonged sitting, according to a 2021 study article from a reputable source.

In this article, researchers suggest routine movement breaks to increase metabolism when sitting for extended periods of time.

Changes in your blood flow:

The same scientific report from 2021 claims that extended sitting can decrease blood flow, especially to the legs.

Consequences such as leg oedema may result from this.

Musculoskeletal problems:

A paper published in 2018 reveals links between extended sitting and specific lower limb musculoskeletal diseases.

Similar to this, a 2017 article formed a link between prolonged sitting and the following musculoskeletal disorders:

  • Neck
  • Knees
  • Thighs
  • Lower back

Mental Health:

The same 2018 study that observed participants as they sat for two hours reveals that extended sitting had a detrimental effect on subjective mental state and inventive problem-solving skills.

According to the 2017 study cited above, sitting for extended periods of time can make you feel exhausted.

How to counteract the effects of sitting down for long periods of time?

As mentioned above, the best advice is to include 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activities during the week. This can be split in any way you wish – 30 minutes every day, 50 minutes in 3 days or different. Some of these activities can be:

  • Jogging
  • Brisk walks
  • Water aerobics
  • Cycling

Everyone can build up their stamina if they don’t feel like they can do 150 minutes straight away. It is better to include these activities in your day-to-day life, rather than try to counteract long periods of sitting down with long periods of just standing.

Suggestions for those working in offices or at home:

  • Asking for sit-and-stand desks or workstations
  • Having walking meetings
  • Regularly stretching while sitting or standing
  • Walking to speak with a colleague instead of sending an email

Can too much sitting lead to early death?

Sedentary living, as defined by doctors, is spending the entire day sitting down. Insufficient physical exercise, which causes 3.2 million deaths annually worldwide, is the fourth highest risk factor for death, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

According to a 2017 article, those who spend a lot of time sitting down at work have a nearly 1.4 times higher risk of passing away before age 12 than those who do not.

Have a full body check-up at Echelon Health

We are committed to provide the most comprehensive health assessment possible using our extensive medical skills and the best imaging technologies available in the UK.

Our Platinum Assessment is one of the most comprehensive out there. It can detect up to 92% and 95% of the causes of early death in men and women, respectively, using the most advanced imaging technologies.

We believe that only by using the correct imaging technology for the correct body part you will be able to get the best results, as such we utilise CT, MRI and ultrasound scans where appropriate to get the most detailed images and results about your health. The following components make up our Platinum assessment:

  • Blood Tests
  • ECG
  • CT Aorta
  • CT Heart
  • CT Coronary Angiogram
  • CT Chest
  • CT Abdomen
  • CT Pelvis
  • CT Virtual Colonoscopy
  • CT Bone Density
  • EOS CT Upright Skeleton
  • MRI Brain
  • MRI Cerebral Artery Angiogram
  • MRI Carotid Artery Angiogram
  • MRI Prostate
  • Ultrasound Thyroid
  • Ultrasound Testes/Ovaries
  • Digital Mammogram
  • Full Body Mole Screen

Scans such as the CT coronary angiogram are the gold standard for imaging the heart. The EOS scan looks at postural abnormalities. So, undertaking the Platinum Assessment would help you see how sitting down for prolonged periods of time has impacted your health and what you can do to get back on track.

If you would like to find out more about Echelon Health and the assessments we provide, do not hesitate to contact us! Our team would be delighted to help.