The dangers of sitting all day: a sedentary lifestyle is worse than smoking

sedentary / sedentarismo
Chronic health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer, can be caused by sitting or lying down for too long. A sedentary lifestyle even harms your mental health.

Chronic health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer, can be caused by sitting or lying down for too long. A sedentary lifestyle even harms your mental health.

In fact, physical inactivity caused more than 5.3 million deaths worldwide in 2008, and the number is only continuing to rise. It is greater than the deaths that occurred due to smoking, with 5 million.

Physical inactivity has a major impact on global health. There are now an average of 3.2 million deaths annually around the world. With the stricter bans on smoking, these mortality estimates are no longer so similar.

Physical inactivity is a major risk factor for chronic diseases. In this way, it ranks fourth in the list of common deaths, after high blood pressure, smoking, and high cholesterol. In addition, a sedentary lifestyle contributes to these diseases. It is linked to 6% of heart disease, 7% of type 2 diabetes, and up to 10% of colon and breast cancers.

An active life is easier than you think. You can gradually incorporate it into your life. Your health may be at risk if you abuse a sedentary lifestyle. You are more likely to live a healthy life if you spend less time sitting or lying down during the day.

Moving around during the day reduces the risk of premature death compared to sitting at a desk all day. Sedentary people are more likely to be overweight, develop diabetes, and suffer from depression or anxiety.

How does a sedentary lifestyle affect the body?

The human body is designed to stand upright. Your cardiovascular system will work more efficiently this way. Also regarding the area of your intestines, there is a more efficient functioning. Hospitalized people often experience problems with this bowel function when they are bedridden.

Your energy levels and stamina increase when you stay active, while your bones stay strong.

Legs and buttocks

The muscles in the buttocks and legs may become weak and wasted after sitting for long periods of time. You must pay attention to these large muscles in order to walk well and maintain your balance. When exercising, you are more likely to get injuries from falls and strains if these muscles are weak.


It’s important to move your muscles so your body can digest the fats and sugars you eat. These fats and sugars are stored in your body as fat if you spend a lot of time sitting down.

Sitting for long periods of time every day can cause health problems, such as metabolic syndrome, even if you exercise regularly.

Getting 60 to 75 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a day can help combat the effects of sitting too long.

The dangers of sitting all day: a sedentary lifestyle is worse than smoking

Hips and back

When you sit for long periods of time, your hips and back won’t be able to support you as well as your legs and buttocks. The hip flexor muscles shorten when you sit, which can lead to hip joint problems.

Use an ergonomically designed chair or workstation. Constantly sitting in a bad posture can also lead to back problems. Spinal health can also be compromised by poor postures, such as narrowing the space between the discs, leading to premature degeneration and severe pain.

Anxiety and depression

In addition to sitting causes physical health problems, we know that sitting also causes mental health problems. Physical activity and fitness can be lacking in people who spend a lot of time sitting. It can help to get up and move around if you feel that starting to be the case.


New studies suggest that sitting may increase the risk of developing cancer, particularly lung, uterine, and colon cancer. More studies are still required to understand this.

Heart disease

Heart disease has been linked to sitting for long periods of time. There is a 64% increased risk of cardiovascular disease mortality among men who watch more than 23 hours of television per week compared to those who watch 11 hours per week.

The risk of having a heart attack or stroke is 147% higher for people who are inactive and sit for long periods of time.


It has been shown that even five days lying in bed can increase insulin resistance in the body (causing blood sugar levels to rise). Sitting more frequently increases the risk of diabetes by 112%.

Varicose veins

Varicose veins and spider veins (smaller versions of varicose veins) can be caused by sitting for long periods of time. As a result, your legs swell when you sit down.

Usually, there is danger associated with varicose veins. Blood clots can form in rare cases, causing serious problems.

Deep vein thrombosis due to a sedentary lifestyle

A long plane or car trip can cause deep vein thrombosis (DVT). In a deep vein thrombosis, a blood clot forms in the veins of the leg.

A blood clot in a leg vein can cause a pulmonary embolism if it breaks free and travels to your lungs. This is a serious problem because it can cut off blood flow to other parts of the body, including the lungs. There may be significant complications or even death as a result of this medical emergency.

Stiff neck and shoulders

Neck and shoulder pain can result if you spend a lot of time hunched over a computer keyboard.

How sedentary are we?

  • Between 21 and 25% of breast and colon cancers, 27% of diabetes cases and about 30% of ischemic heart disease are caused by this disease.
  • In fact, physical inactivity is the second leading cause of cancer in Australia, after smoking.
  • In people ages 18 to 64, nearly one in four (24.5%) met the physical activity guidelines.
  • Less than one in ten children ages 15 to 17 get the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity a day.
  • Less than one in three children and young people spend more than two hours a day looking at screens.
  • Nearly half (49%) of employed people ages 18-64 say they spend a lot of time sitting at work.

Children and youth

The dangers of sitting all day: a sedentary lifestyle is worse than smoking

Preschool-age children (ages 2-4) spend an average of six hours a day being physically active, along with an hour and a half in front of a screen.

Children between the ages of 5 and 17 are physically active for only an hour and a half a day, while screen time represents more than two hours. Young people spent less time in physical activity as they got older, while they spent more time in screen-based activities.

More than half of all middle-upper-middle class children and youth (ages 2-17) have at least one screen in their bedroom (TV, computer, or game console). Youth ages 15 to 17 accounted for three-quarters of that number.

Only 7% of 15- to 17-year-olds walked 12,000 steps each day, the least likely group. During the day, the youngest children (ages 5-11) walked more than the older children (about 23%).

Adults and the inevitable sedentary lifestyle

53% of 18-24-year-olds classified themselves as active enough, the highest level of activity among all adults.

As people get older, they become less active. Those 65 and older achieved the least amount of activity per day, at around 20 minutes. Among people 65 and older, only 42% met the physical activity guidelines.

Exercise is more likely to be enough if:

  • Upper class
  • They classify their health as ‘excellent’
  • They are underweight or have a normal body mass index.
  • Do not smoke or quit smoking
  • Did not work in an office or administrative job that involved a lot of sitting
  • There were less than 13 hours watching television each week and less than 9 hours using the Internet.
  • The average adult takes 7,400 steps a day. The number of adults who walk 10,000 steps a day is less than one in five.

What can you do to protect your health from the dangers of sitting?

It is not too late to get enough physical activity:

  • Add activity to your day
  • Walk or bike instead of driving
  • Consider walking or biking part of the way on longer trips
  • At least take the escalator if you can’t use the stairs.
  • Take the bus one stop earlier and walk the rest of the way.
  • Consider parking further from your destination and walking the rest.
  • You may be able to get to your destination faster by walking than by waiting for public transportation if you calculate the time it takes to walk one kilometer.

Be less sedentary and more active (and stay safe)

Talk to your doctor before starting any new physical activity if you are new to it or if you have any health conditions. You can ask them for advice on which activities are best for you. Find out how to get started with physical activity.

Remember to apply sunscreen and wear sun-protective clothing, including a hat, when exercising outside.

It’s easier than you think to get around at work:

  • Don’t take the elevator, use the stairs.
  • Instead of emailing your colleagues, go up and talk to them.
  • If you can, take your lunch break outside and enjoy the fresh air.
  • Walk meetings can be arranged.

Be active still inside

Make sure you stay active no matter the weather! Do exercises like squats and crunches, exercises that can be done with your own body weight.

You can also try indoor activities like:

  • Dance
  • Swimming in an indoor pool
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Martial Arts
  • Indoor rock climbing.
  • Reduce your sedentary behavior
  • Organize all your things in small trips.
  • To get up and move, set a timer on your phone.
  • Turn off your TV manually.
  • Talk on the phone while you walk.
  • While you watch your favorite show, stand up and iron.
  • When you walk, clean, or garden, listen to books on tape instead of sitting down to read.
  • Get off one stop earlier on public transportation or stand at the stop while you wait.
  • Read emails or footer reports.
  • Throw any trash away from your desk so you have to get up to do it.
  • During conference calls, walk around the room and use the speakerphone.

In a nutshell

Experts have emphasized that sitting is just as bad as breathing smoke filled with harmful chemicals. The truth is that it is not as harmful as smoking, but it is still a worrying situation. Adults spend nine hours sitting each day. It is also due to the reliance on computers in many jobs.

People who sit for less than four hours a day have fewer adverse health effects than those who sit for more than eight hours a day. Sitting has some adverse effects.

Everyone would increase their life expectancy if they avoided sitting for more than three continuous hours a day. Try to avoid a sedentary lifestyle and occupy your day proportionally, between office work and physical activity.

Take care of yourself and continue reading other articles related to health: