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 inactivity could lead to an early death.

US researchers warned last week that sitting for 10 hours a day, whether at work or watching TV, “rapidly” increases the risk of dementia.

Sitting for too long every day can cause dementia


Sitting for too long every day can cause dementiaPhoto credit: Getty
A sedentary lifestyle can lead to many health problems


A sedentary lifestyle can lead to many health problemsPhoto credit: Shutterstock

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

And those who sat for 12 hours a day had a 63 percent higher risk of developing the disease.

According to the British Heart Foundation, working-age adults spend an average of 9.5 hours a day sitting.

Between the ages of 65 and 74, this increases to ten hours per day or more, and for those over 75, it increases to 11 hours.

A connection between sitting and illness was first established in the 1950s.

Researchers found that bus drivers were twice as likely to suffer a heart attack as their bus conductor colleagues who climbed 600 steps a day.

Since then, inactivity has been linked to diabetes, heart disease, poor mental health and an overall 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 the sitting itself, it’s the act of staying still for long periods of time.”

“Our bodies are designed to move, but the times we tend to forget about our bodies – whether we’re working, watching TV or scrolling on our phones – are usually times when we’re sitting.”

If you’re not worried about increased risk of dementia or heart disease, what about your pain?

Back pain causes 12 million lost work days every year, and one of the main causes is too much sitting.

We recommend that you get up and move as often as possible to stay fit and healthy


We recommend that you get up and move as often as possible to stay fit and healthyPhoto credit: Getty

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

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

And sitting around can have deadly consequences.

It was previously thought that sitting for long hours was linked to obesity, a leading cause of health problems.

But it’s now obvious that the risks exist regardless of weight.

According to the NHS, sitting for long periods of time is thought to slow metabolism, affecting the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar and blood pressure and break down fat.

Nell says: “Our bodies are healthiest when we promote fluid flow through our veins, lymphatic system, joints, muscles, organs and intervertebral discs.” This helps us stay healthy by providing nutrients and removing waste.

“Blood is liquid and is pumped by the heart, but other fluids are pumped by the muscles that are working, for example when we dance, exercise or simply change positions.”

Even if you consider yourself a gym bunny, it’s not all good news. The harmful health effects of too much sitting depend on whether you are physically active or not, just as a good diet cannot 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.

So what can you do to help yourself?

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

Nell says: “Put 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 for the sky, touching your toes, curling into a ball curl up.” These types of movements get your blood and lymphatic system moving.

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

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

Further research found that standing most of the day burns around 30,000 more calories per year than sitting – about 3.6 kilograms of fat.

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

“It prevents them from focusing on their bodies.”

In other ways, it affects well-being


Research shows that curbing prolonged sitting could reduce the risk of several types of cancer, including lung, uterine and colon cancer.

A study conducted by Australia that collected data from 130,000 women found lower breast cancer rates among those who exercised.

Specifically, women who sat less had a 104 percent lower risk of triple-negative breast cancer.


VARIOUS studies have shown that prolonged sitting is harmful to the heart.

Australian researchers found that every hour spent watching television increases the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by 18 percent.

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

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


The same university study found that people who were most sedentary were twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

A previous study by the same team found that the association was stronger in women.

Researchers theorized that women may eat more snacks when they sit around, while men may be at lower risk because they simply tend to move more when they get up.


SYMPTOMS of depression, anxiety and loneliness are associated with a lack of activity, which can include sitting all day.

Researchers at University College London tracked the activity of teenagers and found that those who were silent for large portions of the day had a higher risk of depression by age 18.

They found that time spent still increases with age, from an average of seven hours and 10 minutes for 12-year-olds to eight hours and 43 minutes for 16-year-olds.

Those who spent a consistent amount of time sitting between ages 12 and 16 had a 28.2 percent higher rate of depression by age 18.


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Given all this, is it any wonder that sitting for hours on end is consistently linked to early death?

For example, an Australian study that followed people over the age of 45 found that those who sat for more than 11 hours a day had a higher risk of dying in the next three years compared to those who sat for less than four hours sat day.

The sit-stand desk cured my pain


“At 43, I know I’m getting older,” writes Clare O’Reilly.

My lower back pain started a few years ago and a job that required you to sit felt like an occupational hazard.

Then, a year ago, I started getting shoulder strains after hunching over my laptop for hours a day.

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

It has eliminated my pain and I feel healthier, brighter and don’t end my work days as tired as I used to.

I think the little constant exercise actually boosted my energy levels.

And it might be a coincidence, but I’ve also lost 3 pounds since I started this.

I can’t imagine sitting all the time again now.

Even when I sit on the sofa and watch TV, it feels weird to sit for too long.

Russell Falcon

Russell Falcon is a USTimesPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Russell Falcon joined USTimesPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing russellfalcon@ustimespost.com.

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