How Sitting Is Killing You, And How To Save Yourself [INFOGRAPHIC]

Take a moment to consider just how much of your time is spent sitting. We sit down to eat our breakfast, then we sit in our cars or public transportation to get to work, then we sit at our desks during the workday. When we come home, we sit on the couch and watch TV. Excessive sitting doesn’t mean we’re lazy, it’s just a part of modern life.

With all that sitting, it’s no surprise that our health is starting to take a toll. Only 20% of American adults are getting the recommended amount of physical activity to begin with [1]. Add to that a sitting epidemic, and you have a very real health risk.

It’s important to note that it’s not just sitting that’s the problem. It’s inactivity. Even standing still for long periods of time, such as on assembly lines, will take a toll [2].

The overall issue is immobility for long stretches of time.

Fortunately, this is a problem that’s easy to solve. It’s as simple as setting a reminder on your phone or computer and getting up to stretch and walk around for a few minutes throughout the day.

Here are 8 reasons to sit less, and 3 ways to move more.

How Sitting Is Killing You Infographic

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1. The average American sits for 38 hours per week [3]

Between 1965 and 2009, the number of hours the average American adult spent sitting down each week increased by 12 hours. In 1965, adults spent 26 hours per week sitting. Fast forward to 2009, and adults spend 38 hours per week sitting.

This increase in chair time has been attributed to many things, including the fact that more and more modern jobs are done sitting at a computer.

2. More than half of the average person’s day is spent sitting [4]

This may sound like a lot, but it’s really not that surprising if you think about it. Walk yourself through the past week and tally up your hours doing the following:

  • Eating
  • Watching TV
  • Sitting at a desk
  • Sitting in a car or on a bus or subway
  • Sitting on a couch
  • How much time did you spend sitting down?

3. Hitting the gym is not enough [5]

A report published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation found that no amount of exercise can counteract the negative effects of sitting all day. That means that you can spend three hours at the gym each night, but if you’ve been sitting motionless for an eight-hour workday the damage is done. The key is to take frequent breaks from sitting throughout the day–and also go to the gym!


4. What happens when you sit? [6]

When you are sitting for 30 minutes, an hour, or more, here’s what happens in your body that causes harm:

  • Lungs get compressed by the ribcage
  • Bloodflow to the heart is restricted
  • Digestion slows down
  • There is less blood circulation in your legs

5. Sitting causes a 90% increase in diabetes risk [7]

A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that sitting for eight hours or more each day increased the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes by as much as 90 percent.

6. Sitting increases the risk of heart disease [8]

A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that women who sit for 10+ hours per day are more at risk for developing heart disease, the leading cause of death among women [9].

7. Cancer risk is increased by as much as 66% by sitting [10] [11]

A study published by the National Cancer Institute reported that sitting is associated with an increased risk of developing multiple types of cancer, including:
Lung cancer (risk increased by as much as 54%)
Colon cancer (risk increased by as much as 30%)
Uterine cancer (risk increased by as much as 66%)

8. Sitting increases your risk of death … for any reason [12]

Being mostly sedentary increases mortality, making you 24% more likely to die from any health issue.


9. Take a mini movement break about every 30 minutes [13] [14]

Use an app or alarm clock to set a timer to go off every 30 minutes. When you hear the alarm stand up and move around–stretch, walk, do a jig, whatever you feel like. As little as 60-90 seconds of physical activity for every 30 minutes of sitting can offset its negative effects.

10. Get a sit-stand desk [15]

Sit-stand desks are adjustable so that you can easily switch back and forth between standing and sitting throughout the day. A study found that sit-stand workstations reduced the time employees spent in a sedentary position by 3.2 hours per week. While standing still for long periods of time isn’t good either, the change-up can help you move more throughout the day.

11. Fidget [16]

Your coworker’s annoying leg bouncing and thumb twiddling may actually be saving their life! A study of 13,000 women published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that the women who sat still without fidgeting for seven or more hours per day increased their mortality risk from all causes by 30%. In contrast, the women who sat the same amount of time but fidgeted actually lowered their overall mortality risks.


[1] Park, Alice. “Exercise Benefits Your Health, But Only If You Sit Less.” Time, Time, 19 Jan. 2015,

[2] Hutchinson, Alex. “Standing All Day Is Twice as Bad as Sitting for Your Heart.” Runner’s World, Runner’s World, 13 Sept. 2017,

[3] Walton, Alice G. “More Evidence That Sitting Is Bad For Us — And Exercise Alone Won’t Save Us.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 18 Aug. 2016,

[4] Geggel, Laura. “Too Much Sitting Is Killing You (Even If You Exercise).” LiveScience, Purch, 21 Jan. 2015,

[5] [6] [14] Strutner, Suzy. “Sitting All Day Is Even More Dangerous Than We Thought.” The Huffington Post,, 13 Sept. 2017,

[7] [12] Biswas, Aviroop, et al. “Sedentary Time and Its Association With Risk for Disease Incidence, Mortality, and Hospitalization in Adults.” Annals of Internal Medicine, vol. 162, no. 2, 20 Jan. 2015, pp. 123–132., DOI:10.7326/m14-1651.

[8] Chomistek, Andrea, et al. “Relationship of Sedentary Behavior and Physical Activity to Incident Cardiovascular Disease.” Journal of the American College of Cardiology, vol. 61, no. 23, Jun. 2013, DOI: 10.1016/j.jacc.2013.03.031.

[9] World Health Organization. International statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, Tenth Revision (ICD-10). Geneva: World Health Organization, 1992. Available at Accessed April 15, 2010.

[10] Heath, Rory. “Sitting Ducks – Sedentary Behaviour and Its Health Risks: Part One of a Two Part Series.” British Journal of Sports Medicine Blogs, 21 Jan. 2015,

[11] Park, Alice. “Sedentary Behavior Increases Cancer Risk by Up to 66%.” Time, Time, 16 June 2014,

[13] Dr. Mercola. “New Study Debunks Dangers of Prolonged Sitting.”, Peak Fitness, 30 Oct. 2015,

[15] Greenhouse, Pat. “Yes Sitting at Work Is Bad, but Is Standing Actually Better? – The Boston Globe.”, Boston Globe, 3 Nov. 2014,

[16] Hagger-Johnson, G, et al. “Sitting Time, Fidgeting, and All-Cause Mortality in the UK Women’s Cohort Study.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Feb. 2016,

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