The “Sitting” Disease

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Do you suffer from the sitting disease? Several scientific studies in recent years have found that prolonged sitting is more harmful for your health than even smoking! Here is what i found out :

  • Sitting continuously for several hours a day puts you at a higher risk for heart disease, high blood pressure , diabetes and weight gain.
  • Extra physical activity does not reduce the effects of prolonged sitting!This means that even if you have exercised for 30-60 minutes in the morning & then spend several hours at work sitting continuously,you are still at a high risk for disease!!All that morning exercise did not count!This was shocking information to me when i read it in Tom Rath’s great book “Eat,Move,Sleep”(I highly recommend that book).
  • A study in monozygotic twins of 32-36 years of age found that the more active twin had better blood sugar control & more brain volume than his less active brother. As we always say, your genes do not decide your destiny!
  • A study from Australia showed that among overweight/obese people ,interrupting sitting time with short bouts of light or moderate intensity walking can reduce after-meal blood sugar & insulin levels.
  • Continuous sitting is related to more coronary artery calcium, which is a marker for heart disease later in life.
  • Too much sitting reduces your bone mineral density makes them  more prone to fractures.

Is it continuous sitting or is it a lack of activity that is more important ?

It is both. This means that in addition to regular exercise you need to ensure that you interrupt your sitting time with movement for even as little as 2-7 minutes! This is absolutely do-able!


Set reminders to get up. I have my laptop announcing the time every hour which is my cue to get up. You can get completely engrossed in your work and lose track of time!

Get up to drink water:Do not keep drinking water on your work table. This will make sure you walk to the water cooler! However, if you are someone for whom drinking enough water doesn’t come easily,please do keep a bottle on your table to remind you!

Use an active desk: A treadmill desk or an adjustable standing desk, which is better? Using active desks versus sitting desks have shown definite benefits in improving health,but studies have shown a clear benefit of a treadmill desk over a standing desk for reducing waist size, reducing blood sugar levels & improving heart rate.However, a treadmill desk certainly costs more and occupies more space in comparison to a standing desk.

My temporary low-cost solution: While i wait to get my treadmill desk, here is what i have done. I got a small wooden table to keep my laptop on. I place this on top of my regular table. Initially I tried one of those laptop stands that are meant for use on beds, but i found them too unstable.

Sit on an exercise/ stability ball. Instead of sitting on a chair you can try sitting on an exercise ball while you are at your table.

Set up walking meetings: Instead of having a meeting sitting at your office,go for a walk outdoors. Yes, i know you can’t take written notes while walking but use a voice recorder!

Do share your ideas on what you do to avoid the “sitting” disease on my FaceBook page

Disclaimer:As always, this blogpost is not medical advice but for information only.


beware-chair (1)

TED Video.

This is for some of you who would like to explore the subject in (nerdy) detail.

I have learnt a lot from Peter Janiszewski, PhD, and Travis Saunders, PhD, CEP ‘s blog on PLOS.