Healthy Living

Sitting at Work May Contribute to Chronic Health Problems Including Diabetes

Sitting at Work May Contribute to Chronic Health Problems Including Diabetes

According to a new study, sitting and commuting for a long durations can be dangerous, just like smoking. The study involved 2,000 people who were asked in the AXA Healthcare survey about their schedule per day. Those who said that they sat at work spend up to nine hours per day sitting. The time includes that spent while traveling to the office. About half of the participants said that they sat for six hours a day. This limits on the amount of movement and exercise that they need to be doing.

AXA suggests that with that level of inactivity, it could lead to chronic health conditions. AXA continues to explain the rise of type 2 diabetes. Excessive sitting is associated with obesity, and this can lead to heart diseases, cancer or death. NHS recommends at least 150 minutes of exercise per week. Avoiding exercise can slow down metabolism affecting body’s ability to regulate sugar levels in the body, blood pressure, and body fat breakdown. About 50% of the participants said that they don’t mind being sedentary for long periods of time. The findings also showed that three-quarter of the participants had problems with their shoulder, neck, and back. 36% of those who responded said that they took part active activities during the day.

What happens to a body when someone sits for long hours?

Dr. James Levine has dedicated most of his time to investigating the effects associated with sitting. Levine is a co-director of Mayo Clinic and an author as well. In his investigations, he found that when someone sits for long periods and then gets up, several molecular cascades occur. For instance, as soon as someone stands, the cellular and muscular systems that process cholesterol, blood sugar and triglycerides are activated.

All the molecular effects that are activated are to carry someone’s body weight. These cellular mechanisms also push fuel into body cells. If this occurs regularly, it will decrease the risk of obesity and diabetes. In other words, a human body is designed to be active and therefore should be kept active all day. When someone stops moving for long periods of time, the body will shut down slowly will lead to chronic diseases.

Organ damage

Heart – sitting makes muscles to burn fat slowly and blood to flows slower. This makes it easy for clogging of fatty acids in the heart. Research showed that women that sit for more than 10 hours have a high risk of developing heart disease.

Pancreas – a whole day of sitting affect the pancreas ability to process insulin. It might lead to high amounts of insulin which can lead to diabetes.

The research found that people who sat for long hours were two times likely to develop heart disease and diabetes when compared to those who sat for less time. Doctors have associated 90% of type 2 diabetes to sitting for more than eight hours.

Colon Cancer – Too much sitting also increases the risk of colon and breast cancers. Researchers don't know how it happens, but they know that it could be because of excess insulin production. The excess production encourages cell growth. It could also happen due to antioxidants boosted by regular movements. These antioxidants may eliminate free radicals that cause cancer. 

Findings presented in 2015 at Inaugural Active Working Summit found that sitting at work increase uterine cancer by 66%, lung cancer by 54%, and colon cancer by about 30%. Another explanation for high cancer risk is linked to associated biochemical changes and weight gain. The associated biochemical changes include changes in metabolic dysfunction, hormones, inflammation and leptin dysfunction and all these can lead to cancer.

Digestion – when someone sits down after eating, it causes compression of abdominal contents leading to slow digestion. Slow digestion leads to bloating, cramping, constipation and heartburn. It can also lead to dysbiosis in the gastrointestinal tract. The microbial imbalances in a body cause the condition.

Brain Damage – When a body is sedentary for many hours, the brain function slows. The brain gets less oxygen and fresh blood. These are required to cause the release of mood-enhancing and brain chemicals.

Posture problems

Strained shoulders and neck – most people hold their head and neck forward when cradling a phone to the ear or working at a computer. This leads to cervical vertebrae strain and permanent imbalances. This lead to sore back and shoulders and neck strain. 

Back problems – when someone sits, it puts a lot of pressure on the spine than when standing. The pain on the back becomes even worse when sitting and working at a computer. 40% of people suffering from back pain spent many hours sitting and working at a computer every day.

There are disks on the back that should contract and expand as someone move. This movement allows them to absorb nutrients and blood. Sitting leads to compression of these disks making them lose flexibility as time goes by. Excessive sitting increases the risk of herniated disks. Some of those with back pain reduced their sitting hours to only two or one hour and decades of back pain have disappeared. Excessive sitting leads to back pain.

Muscle Degeneration – Excessive sitting leads to weak abdominals. Standing requires one to be tense their abdominal muscles. These abdominal muscles go unused during sitting.

Hip Problems – prolonged sitting has effects on the hips. Sitting makes the hips tight and limit the range of motion as they are not extended when someone is sitting. When there is decreased hip mobility, it causes falls which happen in older adults.

Sitting also doesn’t help glutes. This weakens the glutes affecting the power of one’s stride and stability when jumping and walking.

Leg disorders

Weak bones – running, walking and other activities that involve carrying weight makes denser and stronger bones. Inactivity may lead to osteoporosis and weak bones.

Varicose veins – sitting for long hours can result in poor blood circulation in the legs leading to swelling of ankles, blood clots (deep vein thrombosis) and varicose veins.


Excessive sitting also reduces the life expectancy.

A study found that when the time that people take sitting to about three or fewer hours per day might increase life span by at least two years.

Another study found that anyone above 25 years of age and spends hours watching TV reduces their life span by about 22 minutes every hour. The authors of the study compared watching TV to smoking. Smoking of cigarette can reduce people’s life span by about 11 minutes. The researchers found that adults that watch television for more than 6 hours will reduce their life span by less than five years as compared to those who don’t watch.