Why Is Sitting so Bad for Us? > News > Yale Medicine

For many people, work means hours and hours of sitting, with rare pauses for a walk around the block or even down the hall. While it’s easy to dismiss this as a routine part of adult life, it is becoming a growing concern among researchers. Studies suggest that spending hours in a chair can cause all kinds of damage to your body, and even shorten your lifespan.

Last year the Annals of Internal Medicine published a study of 8,000 adults that showed an association between prolonged sitting and a risk of early death from any cause. (People who sat for no more than 30 minutes at a time had the lowest risk in that study.) Other research has linked prolonged sitting or other sedentary behavior to diabetes, poor heart health, weight gain, depression, dementia, and multiple cancers.

It’s a habit that seems to start early. One of the most recent studies, published in JAMAfound that in more than 51,000 Americans surveyed, the amount of time spent sitting increased in a range of age groups by about an hour a day between 2007 and 2016, and that included a notable rise among adolescents.

“Prolonged sitting is one of the main causes for many of the conditions treated in my musculoskeletal clinic. It often results in office visits with other types of doctors as well,” says Eric K. Holder, MD, a Yale Medicine physiatrist (a physician who specializes in the nonsurgical care of patients with musculoskeletal issues). “It is so ingrained in our society now—people are stationed at desks, seated in front of computers or the TV for extended periods, constantly traveling in cars, trains, and on planes. It’s a major health problem that can lead to many chronic diseases.”

We asked five Yale Medicine specialists how prolonged sitting could affect your health and what you can do about it.