What Happens To Your Body When You Sit for Too Long

On average, adults tend to spend nine to 10 hours sitting each day. This amount of inactivity can’t be offset with just a 30- to 60-minute workout. Even worse than that, many adults do not even try to fit in a workout. This keeps the body locked into a sedentary state and can cause a number of health problems. It’s not that sitting is so dangerous, but the length of time it is done on a daily basis. Brief periods of sitting are not harmful and are more natural. However, sitting for long periods of time day in and day out can have serious negative impacts on your health.

How is the body affected when you sit too much?

After being in a seated position for a long period of time, the body responds on a molecular level once you stand. Within a minute and a half after rising from being seated the cellular and muscular systems are activated. These two systems process triglycerides, blood sugar and cholesterol and are mediated by insulin. These effects are activated just by carrying your own body weight. On a cellular level, they help fuel cells and when done on a regular basis help reduce the risk of obesity and diabetes.

The body is designed to be on the move all day, so when moving stops for long periods of time it is basically telling the body to shut down. Here are a few of the ways the body is affected by long-term sitting day after day.

  • Heart Health: Blood flow slows, and muscles fail to burn off fat making it easier for fatty acids to cause heart blockages.
  • Pancreas: Just one day of excessive sitting affects how the body responds to insulin which can lead to the pancreas producing too much insulin which puts you at a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Digestion: Sitting after eating a meal compresses the abdomen which slows down the process of digestion. This can lead to heartburn, constipation, bloating and cramping.
  • Brain: The brain slows down when the body is still for too long. It needs fresh oxygen and blood to function. Lower brain function can affect moods and cause depression.
  • Bones: Weight-bearing activities like running or walking led to strong, dense bones. Lack of it may weaken bones and put you at risk for osteoporosis.
  • Legs: When you sit the circulation in your legs decreases. This can cause your ankles to swell and varicose veins. It can also lead to dangerous blood clots.
  • Longevity: Sitting for too long each day may shorten your lifespan.

How to Move More Each Day

High-intensity workouts are part of getting and staying healthy, but many people do not engage in any rigorous exercise. This lack of activity combined with excessive sitting can be detrimental to your health. Here are a few ways to add activity to your day to minimize the time you sit at a desk.

  • Get a pedometer and measure your steps each day. Aim for 7,000 to 10,000 steps in a day.
  • Reorganize workspaces so you have to get up and move to accomplish repeated tasks such as answering the phone or grabbing often used files or items.
  • Instead of sending a coworker an email, walk to their office to share your message.
  • Park your vehicle further from the entrance to buildings
  • Take longer paths to your desk.
  • Use an exercise ball at your desk which engages more muscles.
  • Create a standing workspace so you have the option of standing or sitting.


The key to offsetting the danger of sitting too long is finding ways to move more throughout the day. This can minimize the risks associated with being sedentary.