Health & Fitness

Why too much time sitting still can be a killer & increase risk of dementia – and 5 other ways it hits your wellbeing

SITTING is the new smoking, experts say, as another study warns that long periods of being inactive could lead you to an early grave.

US researchers last week warned that sitting for ten hours a day, whether that’s at work or watching TV, “rapidly” increases the risk of dementia.


Sitting for too long each day can cause dementia[/caption]


Having a sedentary lifestyle can cause you many health issues[/caption]

Those who were sedentary for ten hours a day were eight per cent more likely to develop dementia than those who sat for nine hours a day.

And those sitting for 12 hours a day were 63 per cent more likely to develop the condition.

Adults of working age average 9.5 hours a day of sedentary time, says the British Heart ­Foundation.

This increases to ten hours a day or more between the ages of 65 and 74, and 11 hours for those over 75.

The first time a connection was made between sitting and any disease was in the 1950s.

Researchers found bus drivers were twice as likely to have heart attacks as their bus conductor colleagues, who were climbing 600 steps a day.

Since then, inactivity has been linked to diabetes, heart disease, poor mental health and a general risk of dying young.

Physiotherapist Nell Mead, a member of the Association Of Chartered Physiotherapists In Occupational Health And Ergonomics, told Sun Health: “Sitting could be the new smoking, but it’s not sitting per se, it’s being still for long periods.

“Our bodies are designed for movement, but the times when we tend to forget about our bodies — whether we’re working, watching TV or scrolling on our phones — tend to be times when we’re seated.”

So if a greater risk of dementia or heart disease doesn’t scare you, what about your aches and pains?

Back pain causes 12million lost working days each year, a leading cause of which is sitting too much.


You are advised to get up and move as often as you can to stay fit and healthy[/caption]

Nell says: “It only takes two hours of static sitting to lose up to a ­centimetre in spinal height, just from compression squeezing the fluid out of your discs.

“Sitting for too long is a key factor in lower back pain.”

And sitting around can lead to deadly consequences.

It was previously thought that hours of sitting were linked to ­obesity, a leading cause of health ­conditions.

But it is now apparent the risks are there regardless of weight.

The NHS says sitting for long periods is thought to slow the metabolism, which affects the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar and blood pressure, and break down fat.

Nell says: “Our bodies are healthiest when we encourage fluid to flow through our veins, lymphatic system, joints, muscles, organs and spinal discs. This keeps us healthy by delivering nutrients and removing waste.

“Blood is fluid and that’s pumped by the heart, but other fluids are pumped by the muscles working, for example when we dance, exercise or even just change position.”

Even if you consider yourself a gym bunny, it’s not all good news. The poor health effects from too much sitting are separate from whether you are physically active or not, in the same way a good diet won’t offset the harms of smoking.

A University of Glasgow study found that 30 minutes of exercise a day was not enough to offset the health risks of sitting for hours.


WAYS to reduce your number of hours sitting per day include standing on the train, taking the stairs, walking around the office when you take a phone call and going outside for a walk on your lunch break.

Nell says: “Pop a kettle on and dance around while it boils, because standing is a start but it’s the big, full-body movements that make the real difference — reaching up to the sky, touching your toes, rolling into a ball. Those types of movements are the ones that get your blood and lymphatic system pumping.

“In an ideal world, everyone who has a sedentary job would have a sit-stand desk.”

A University of Chester study found standing for three hours a day is the equivalent of running ten marathons a year.

Further research found standing for most of the day burns around 30,000 more calories a year than sitting — roughly eight pounds of fat.

Nell says: “I encourage patients to sit until they start to slouch, then stand until they start to slouch, then sit, and repeat.

“That prevents them switching off to their bodies.”

Other ways it hits wellbeing


CURBING long periods of sitting could cut your risk of several types of cancer, including lung, womb and bowel cancers, research shows.

An Australia-led study which took data from 130,000 women revealed lower rates of breast cancer in those who exercised.

Specifically, there was a 104 per cent lower risk of triple negative breast cancer in women who sat down less.


VARIOUS studies have found prolonged periods of sitting are bad for the heart.

Aussie researchers found that every hour spent sitting watching TV increased the risk of cardiovascular disease death by 18 per cent.

Leicester University combined the results of 18 studies and found people who were sedentary for the longest periods had a risk of heart disease 2.5 times higher than those who were sedentary for the least time.

The results stood true even when taking into account whether a person exercised.


THE same university review found the most sedentary people had double the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

An earlier study by the same team found the link was stronger in women.

Researchers theorised that women might snack more while sitting around, while men may have a lower risk because they simply tend to move around more when they do get up and about.


SYMPTOMS of depression, anxiety and loneliness have been linked with a lack of activity, which may include sitting all day.

Researchers at University College London tracked the activity of teenagers and found that those who were still for large parts of the day had a greater risk of depression at the age of 18.

They found the amount of time spent still increases with age, from an average of seven hours and ten minutes for 12-year-olds to eight hours and 43 minutes in 16-year-olds.

Those with consistently high amounts of time spent sedentary between the ages of 12 and 16 had 28.2 per cent higher depression scores by age 18.


TAKING everything into account, is it any wonder hours of sitting have been repeatedly linked to early death?

For example, an Australian study that monitored individuals aged over 45 found that those who sat for more than 11 hours a day had an increased likelihood of dying in the next three years, compared to those who sat for fewer than four hours per day.

Sit-stand desk cured my pain

AT 43, I know I’m getting older, writes Clare O’Reilly.

My lower back pain started a couple of years ago and having a job that involves sitting down felt like an occupational hazard.

I then started to get shoulder tension a year ago, after hunching over my laptop for hours a day.

Switching to a sit-stand desk eight months ago has changed everything.

It has eliminated my pain and I feel healthier, brighter and I don’t finish my working days as tired as I did.

I think the small constant movement has actually increased my energy levels.

And it might be a coincidence, but I’ve lost 3lbs since I started using it too.

I can’t ever imagine going back to sitting down constantly now.

Even when I’m on the sofa watching TV, sitting for too long feels weird.

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Source of data and images: thesun

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