What is Sitting Disease?

What is Sitting Disease?

What is Sitting Disease?

While chairs aren’t inherently harmful, as a society we sit too much. In fact, the scientific community coined the term ‘sitting disease’ to describe the host of health problems associated with sedentary lifestyle. Obesity, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, increased risk of depression, and even premature death have all been linked to excessive sitting. The good news is that it’s easy to prevent sitting disease by simply moving more throughout the day.


Low back pain, overweight, reduced focus, and ‘computer hunch’ are the most common symptoms of the sitting disease. The more serious ones like blurred vision and fatigue stem from underlying conditions such as diabetes or depression, which can be exacerbated by prolonged sitting but aren’t necessarily caused by it. 14

Health Effects of Sedentariness

Sitting all day has been shown to contribute to musculoskeletal disorders, muscle degeneration, and osteoporosis. Our modern sedentary lifestyle allows for little movement, which, coupled with a poor diet, can lead to obesity. Overweight and obesity, in turn, can bring a host of other health problems like metabolic syndrome, hypertension, and pre-diabetes (high blood glucose). Recent research also linked excessive sitting with increased stress, anxiety, and risk of depression.


Sedentariness has been proven to be the key contributing factor to obesity. More than 2 in 3 adults and around one-third of children and adolescents aged between 6 and 19 are considered to be obese or overweight. With sedentary jobs and lifestyle in general, even regular exercise may not be enough to create a healthy energy balance (calories consumed versus calories burned). 15

Metabolic Syndrome and Increased Risk of Stroke

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of serious conditions like increased blood pressure, pre-diabetes (high blood glucose), elevated cholesterol and triglycerides. Generally associated with obesity, it may lead to more serious diseases like coronary heart disease or stroke.

Chronic Illnesses

Neither obesity nor lack of physical activity cause diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or hypertension, but both are associated with these chronic diseases. Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death worldwide while heart disease went from being No. 3 cause of death in the U.S. to No. 5. 16

Muscle Degeneration and Osteoporosis

The process of muscle degeneration is, however, a direct result of lack of physical activity. Although it naturally occurs with age, as well.  Muscles that normally contract and stretch during exercise or simple movement like walking tend to shrink when not used or trained regularly, which may lead to muscle weakness, tightening, and imbalance. Bones are also affected by inactivity. Low bone density caused by inactivity can, in fact, lead to osteoporosis—porous bone disease that increases the risk of fractures.

Musculoskeletal Disorders and Poor Posture

While obesity and associated risks of diabetes, CVD, and stroke result from a combination of poor diet and inactivity, prolonged sitting can lead to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)—the disorders of muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons, and nerves—such as tension neck syndrome and thoracic outlet syndrome. 17

Most common causes of MSDs are repetitive strain injuries and poor posture. The repetitive strain may come as a result of an ergonomically poor workstation while poor posture puts additional pressure on the spine, neck, and shoulders, causing stiffness and pain. Lack of movement is another contributor to musculoskeletal pain because it reduces the blood flow to tissues and spinal discs. The latter tend to harden and also cannot heal without an adequate blood supply. 

Anxiety, Stress, and Depression

Low physical activity does not only affect your physical health. Sitting and poor posture have both been linked to increased anxiety, stress, and risk of depression while numerous studies show that exercise can help improve your mood as well as manage your stress levels. 

How to Prevent and Fight Sitting Disease?

An average office worker sits between 10 to 15 hours a day. You may find that you spend most of your waking hours sitting if you account for your commute time, work hours, and leisure.

Excessive sitting is not the only culprit behind chronic disease, though. Lifestyle factors like poor diet, increased stress, smoking, low levels of fitness and exercise can also contribute to the development of diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease.

Preventive solutions for sitting disease may not be straightforward once you count all the time you spend sitting. A lot of us ride the bus or drive to work, sit all day behind a desk at the office, ride to lunch, and then back home. This time can accumulate up to 10 hours of sitting, but it’s not all there is to it. Considering sedentary pastime like watching TV, playing video games, even going out, it may be even more than that.

The only place where you’re seemingly moving is a gym. But that is only true if you aren’t using exercise machines, most of which require you to sit. Free weights and treadmills are better for exercising and moving. There are, however, other actions that you could take against developing chronic diseases and back pain:

  • increase your overall physical activity (NEAT) 18
  • get an active workstation (standing or treadmill desk or a desktop converter)
  • stand up during moderate or vigorous exercise
  • eat a healthy diet

Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)

Increased daily physical activity has been found to reduce the health risks associated with sitting. It is a key factor in cosmetic and preventive weight loss and offers such positive health effects as improved blood circulation, reduced stress, and increased productivity.

The endocrinologist, researcher, and treadmill desk inventor Dr. James A. Levine of the Mayo Clinic calls the energy expended through all non-exercise activities like walking, standing, fidgeting, and cooking ‘Non–Exercise Activity Thermogenesis’ (NEAT). NEAT can vary from individual to individual and reach up to 2,000 calories a day, meaning that you can significantly raise your daily energy expenditure by simply cutting sitting time and moving more in addition to your exercise routine.

To increase your daily activity, you could park further from the office, take calls and hold meetings standing or walking as well as skip the elevator, but you would still be sedentary for the most part of your workday, commute, dinner, and TV past time. Active workstations like treadmill and standing desks or desk converters are designed to promote non-exercise activity throughout the day, enabling workers to stand, walk, and fidget all while reducing the number of hours spent sitting. But you can be even more successful if you bike to the office, take the stairs, and cook your own meals. Generally, the more everyday tasks you can perform without the help of technology the more energy you will expend without exercising.

Sitting isn’t inherently bad for the body when practiced properly and in moderation. An ergonomic chair that supports the low back and elbows is just as crucial for any workstation as a monitor arm that will keep your posture neutral. Adding a desk treadmill can bring additional health benefits such as increased creativity and productivity, improved mood and memory, reduced stress, and better overall physical fitness.

Importance of a Healthy Diet

It is also important to note that a healthy diet plays a significant role in limiting health risks associated with sedentariness by keeping your weight and blood sugar stable. Long periods of inactivity reduce our energy expenditure, thus requiring a smaller calorie intake. When there is an excess of energy, it’s stored in our fat deposits, elevating bad cholesterol and causing insulin resistance and pre-diabetes.  

Why Use an Active Workstation

According to the expert statement released in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, office workers should aim to stand, move and take breaks for at least two out of eight hours at work. Then they should gradually work up to spending at least half of their eight-hour work day in positions that promote NEAT energy expenditure. Standing desksconverters, and treadmill desks allow users to frequently move their bodies while staying focused on work-related tasks. This is especially appealing for people who don’t have time or access to a gym on a regular basis.

Why Exercise?

The World Health Organization’s Global Recommendations on Physical Activity include at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity per week for optimum health. While exercise may seem like an obvious solution for preventing or curbing the sitting disease, many studies suggest that exercise alone isn’t enough to mitigate the adverse health effects of sedentariness. The combination of NEAT movement and vigorous exercise is ideal. NEAT can help you increase your daily energy expenditure while moderate and vigorous intensity exercise will promote long-term health with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, increased bone strength, muscle development, and improved sleep.

A Recipe for Success

If you are looking to improve your overall health, an active workstation is a significant change that can help you ease into exercising or break through a fitness plateau. With a few minor dietary corrections, you might be able to achieve your health and fitness goals much faster. iMovR offers high-quality standing desks and treadmill desks, sit-stand converters and standing mats that have been NEAT™-certified by the Mayo Clinic. NEAT certification is awarded to products that increase energy expenditure over sitting by more than 10 percent, helping people meet their fitness and nutrition goals.

See sources.