Why is sitting dangerous?

What happens in the sitting body and what are the negative health consequences? Overview of the current state of research.

  • Sitting damages the heart and increases the risk of a heart attack

    Sitting causes overall slower blood flow and weakened heart muscles, leading to higher blood pressure and chronic inflammation in the blood vessels. The combination of unhealthy accumulation of body fat and reduced muscle mass results in higher levels of unhealthy fats in the blood, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Those who sit for more than seven hours a day have an 85% increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. For every two hours a person sits each day, the risk of cardiovascular disease increases cardiovascular diseases by another 5%.

  • Sitting impairs breathing with serious consequences

    Sitting at a desk with slumped shoulders and a rounded spine results in a significant reduction in lung capacity, which is compounded by the lack of movement of the diaphragm due to the compression of the abdomen between the torso and the flexed hip. Over time, breathing becomes chronically impaired, which leads to decreased energy and negative effects on brain function, including impaired concentration and memory, and surprisingly an increased risk of stroke.

  • Sitting damages the digestive system

    Sitting causes food to be compressed in the gut, which impairs digestion and can lead to long-term, low-level inflammation in and around the gut That, in turn, negatively impacts healthy gut flora (microbiome). This is associated with gut disease and may also contribute to allergies, asthma, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and cancer.

  • Sitting is one of the main contributors to obesity

    Sitting for too long affects the hormones dopamine and leptin, which play important roles in regulating hunger and satiety. Weight gain caused by inactivity can initiate a vicious cycle in which it becomes increasingly difficult to lose weight. Being overweight increases your risk of a number of serious conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and heart attack, stroke, cancer, kidney disease, and liver disease; it can also disrupt sleep and cause a range of musculoskeletal problems.

  • Sitting has been shown to increase the risk of cancer

    Sitting for more than 8 hours a day increases the risk of lung cancer by 54%, uterine cancer by 66%, and colon cancer by 30%. This is partly due to hormonal changes (IGF-1), excessive insulin secretion, a state of constant underlying inflammation and reduced production of antioxidant enzymes. The risk of dying from cancer is increased by 82% for people who sit more than 11 hours a day.

  • Sitting increases the risk of diabetes.

    The body's ability to effectively respond to sugar intake is severely compromised by prolonged sitting, leading to insulin resistance and diabetes. Long-term elevated blood sugar levels lead to cardiovascular disease, stroke, kidney failure, nerve damage, blindness, and limb amputations .

  • Sitting and the cervical spine

    The typical desk position with neck and head bent forward leads to spinal problems, chronic strains, headaches, and herniated discs.

  • Sitting causes irreparable changes in the glutes

    The gluteal muscles are an essential building block for natural human locomotion and are severely affected by sitting. Chronic underuse of the hip muscles leads to tension and restricted range of motion, while weakened gluteal muscles affect a person's stability. Both effects can lead to an increased risk of falls, particularly for the elderly. The constant compression of nerves and vessels when sitting leads to chronic damage and sometimes irreparable changes to muscles, fascia, and nerves, resulting in chronic pain and resistance to training.

  • Sitting is the main risk factor for herniated discs

    Sitting puts enormous pressure on the spine, especially in critical areas. This leads to herniated discs, chronic back pain and spinal degeneration. Many also suffer the psychological effects of back pain, all too often leading to over-prescribing of opioids.

    In a study in collaboration with the Technical University of Munich, we were able to show the effectiveness of Walkolution in patients with chronic back pain. Read more.

  • Sitting also damages the brain with far-reaching consequences

    Exercise triggers the release of neurotransmitters that are essential for consciousness, proper memory function, and mood stability. The brain works like a muscle. Without adequate exercise, the brain shrinks, increasing the risk of developing depression, anxiety, dementia (including Alzheimer's), attention deficit disorder, and more. Read more about the benefits of walking for the brain.

    Read more. 
  • Sitting shortens life expectancy.

    The ease of our modern workday comes at the expense of our longevity. Prolonged sitting increases the likelihood of premature death.

  • Why standing desks don't offer a solution

    Standing at work is no healthier than sitting. It doesn't solve the fundamental problem of not being active enough. It also does not burn more calories: many users complain of fatigue and back pain, as well as pain in the legs.

    In fact, a lot of research even suggests that standing for long periods does more harm than good.

    Read more 
  • Too much sitting can NOT be compensated by sport

    Physical activity and sedentary work are two completely different things. They're not as closely related as we used to believe. Contrary to popular belief, it is not possible for extra exercise to compensate for too much sitting. Sitting harms the body regardless of physical activity, and physical activity cannot compensate for sedentary time.

What is the problem with too much sitting?

Death by Sitting. Why We Need A Movement Revolution explains clearly why the human body is so unsuited to sitting for long periods of time and what specific health risks are associated with a sedentary lifestyle. In addition, the book also illustrates how our cognitive performance and mental balance can be significantly improved through physical activity. Written by specialist and Walkolution founder Dr. Eric Soehngen, MD. Released in 2018, a new edition is planned for 2023.

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