Why Excessive Sitting is So Bad, and What You Can Do About It

November 14, 2017 1 Comment

Among the many common traits of content creators, digital marketers, inbound marketing gurus, etc., perhaps the most common of all is the propensity to sit for long periods of time. Whether it’s a desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone, when work is getting done, there’s a great chance the person doing that work is planted firmly on his or her ass.

Although, at Inbound 2017 in Boston, I did see quite a few younger folks (millennials) sprawled right out on their backs getting comfy with laptops at the ready. We can talk about that one another time, though…this post is about sitting.

Perhaps one of the key issues with sitting for digital people is that it isn’t tied negatively to productivity. On countless occasions, I’ve told my business partner (wife…ok, boss), that I could have the most productive day of my life and barely move. Great for business, really bad for overall health and well-being.

We did a post about work-life balance that you may want to read, especially if you are among the long-term sitters that get a lot accomplished.

The Research Is Frightening

More and more, it seems that studies are coming out touting the evils of too much sitting. Many call it the “new smoking”, and while that’s debatable, depending on your views about smoking, the message is clear. Overall, there is a direct link to prolonged bouts of sitting and the risk of death from any cause. That is pretty scary shit! An associate professor named Dr. David A. Alter, from the University of Toronto says that how the sedentary behavior negatively impacts health is “unclear and complex.”

That is also scary. There are some theories about excessive sitting impacting insulin sensitivity and net calorie expenditures declining as sitting increases, but the fact that no one really knows for sure isn’t exactly comforting. The Mayo Clinic cited a study that compared adults who spent two hours a day sitting in front of a television with those who sat in front of the TV for more than four hours.

The group who sat more had almost a 50 percent greater risk of death from any cause and a 125 percent greater risk of experiencing cardiovascular issues. Now, I don’t know about you…but when I get rolling on the computer, I can easily reach double digits when it comes to hours of sitting time.  

No, the Gym Won’t Help

And if you hadn’t heard, sitting for hours and hours writing epic blog posts or creating killer PPC campaigns and then hitting the gym for a savage workout won’t make a difference. Exercise won’t offset the damage caused by the sitting. Not that working out is a bad idea, but trying to mitigate your sitting habits with a workout at the beginning or end of the day won’t help you reduce the higher likelihood of dying.

How Much Is Too Much?

Luckily, there is some usable data when it comes to how much sitting seems to be too much. It isn’t necessarily sitting a certain number of hours in a day that’s bad, but sitting for prolonged periods without moving. Dr. Alter noted that the people who have the highest risk of early death due to sitting, are the ones who sit for 30 minutes or more at a time, with an overall daily max of more than 12.5 hours.

He also stated that if you did sit for longer than 30 minutes at a time, but your overall daily sitting time was low, your mortality wouldn’t be affected. So, if you routinely sit for more than 12.5 hours in a day and often have bouts of 30 or more minutes of uninterrupted sitting, you’re screwed.

A Good Guideline to Follow​

To be on the safe side, it’s probably best to stop sitting for so long everyday overall and to limit the instances of 30-plus minutes of uninterrupted sitting. One guide that should help keep you in line is, for every 30 minutes you spend sitting at the computer (or anywhere), get up and move around for at least five minutes.

If you work at home, you could buy an inexpensive rebounder (mini trampoline) and use that on your movement breaks. You could scuttle around the office, go visit a co-worker on the other side of the office, do a few flights of stairs, jumping jacks, deep knee bends; whatever you need to do to get up and get moving. Many workplaces use desks that can switched between sitting and standing, and if you foresee problems sticking with this kind of schedule, set a timer.

A Critical Point About Accomplishment

One point about accomplishment I’ve noticed from years of observation is that it is virtually impossible to accomplish anything if you are dead. Many, many people have laid the groundwork for you to follow on this one. If you are dead, you won’t accomplish shit.

Yes, it is tempting to stay at the computer and keep plugging away because there is always so much to do…and yes, we are in an age when the “hustler” is revered and often rewarded financially, but the stats aren’t bullshitting you. Get off your ass and move around ever half hour or so….you don’t even have to stop working while you do it. Just get it done.

1 Response

Nate Slavik
Nate Slavik

October 02, 2018

Thanks for the quick tips, I need to work on the amount of time I sit at my desk, but where is the blog post you linked in the article under the anchor “work-life balance”? I thought I’d point out this dead 404 page since this is a high-end content marketing service company. Thanks!

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