How bad is sitting for your health?

New guidelines for how long we should spend sitting and standing

Just How Bad Is Sitting for Your Health?

No such thing as a nice sit down? Not quite, but health experts have warned that you can have too much of a good thing.

For office workers particularly, sitting down for too long can have serious health consequences.

Studies have found that sedentary behaviour, including sitting for extended periods, increases the risk for developing dozens of chronic conditions, from cancer and diabetes to cardiovascular disease and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

Experts warn that too much standing also can have negative effects on health, including a greater risk for varicose veins, back and foot problems, and carotid artery disease.

Now, new research is helping medical experts find out how long a typical office worker should spend sitting and standing.

"The key is breaking up your activity throughout the day," said Alan Hedge, a professor of ergonomics at Cornell University.

For every half-hour working in an office, people should sit for 20 minutes, stand for eight minutes and then move around and stretch for two minutes, Dr. Hedge recommends.


The British Journal of Sports Medicine earlier this year published guidelines for sitting from an international panel of experts, including Dr. Hedge. The panel recommends a combined two to four hours of standing and light activity spread throughout the workday.

John Buckley, a professor of applied exercise science at the University of Chester and lead author of the published guidelines, said: "The current scientific evidence shows that when people have occupations in which they are on their feet for more than two hours a day, there seems to be a reduction in the risk of developing key chronic diseases."

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