10 Adverse Effects of Sedentary Behavior in the Workplace

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Sedentary behavior such as a lack of physical activity and prolonged sitting becomes very common in the workplace which increases the risks of health problem and mental problem.

Most of the office workers spend a long period of time sitting at desks due to the steady rise of digital technology. A new survey found that full-time American workers are sitting an average of 13 hours a day. In addition, according to the University of Edinburgh’s research, 45 to 54-year-old Scots sitting 7.8 hours per weekday on average. All of those can be described as sedentary behavior which refers to any waking behavior characterized by an energy expenditure ≤1.5 METs, while in a sitting, reclining or lying posture. And unfortunately, it has been proved is associated with a variety of chronic diseases and negative mental well-being. Below are 10 adverse effects of sedentary behavior impact on you.

Posture Problems

After a long time of sitting, most people feel lassitude to maintain good posture, tending to a forward head, a slumped back and crossing legs. While a poor posture can lead to a number of workplace injuries such as cervical vertebrae and low back pain, headache, carpal tunnel syndrome and even lumbar disc herniation.

Poor Blood Circulation

Sitting for too long impairs blood circulation, which can lead to swelling or numbness, and over time, become varicose veins or even deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

Muscle Degeneration

Standing requires using your core abdominal and hip muscles, which are not needed while sitting, so prolonged sitting will eventually lead to the degeneration of the core abdominal muscles and a flat hip.

Weight Gain

Inactivity reduces muscle contractions and subsequent body movements, slowing down blood circulation and metabolism, which can result in obesity. While, standing burns more calories than resting in a chair, which has been verified by the BBC and the University of Chester, that standing causes to burn about 50 extra calories per hour versus sitting. That’s to say, over a year, it helps burn about 30,000 extra calories if we stand for 3 hours a day of five days a week.

Heart Disease

During a long sit, our muscles burn less fat and blood flows slower, making the heart easier to be clogged by fatty acids. According to the simple experiment by the BBC and the University of Chester, compared with sitting, volunteers’ blood glucose levels were quicker to go back to normal after eating when standing, while high glucose level has been related with higher risks of heart disease.


A study [1] from the Netherlands has found that people who are sedentary got a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Moreover, the study has found that an extra hour of being sedentary was associated with a 22% increased risk for type 2 diabetes and a 39% increased risk for the metabolic syndrome.

Brain Damage

A new study [2] published this year linked prolonged sitting to thinning of a brain region for forming new memories called Medial Temporal Lobe (MTL), while such thinning can be an important precursor of cognitive decline and dementia in the middle-aged and elderly people.


The sedentary behavior can increase the risk of certain cancers which has been proven by a study [3] published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (JNCI). The study reveals a higher level of sedentary behavior leads to significantly higher risks for three types of cancer – colon, endometrial, and lung. What’s more, the effect of prolonged sitting won’t be counteracted if you are otherwise physically active, and what counts is how much time spend on sitting.

Premature Death

Based on a review and analysis of previous research, the study [4] published in Annals of Internal Medicine found that sedentary behavior increases the risk of early death, no matter whether exercise regularly.

Anxiety and Depression

In addition to health problems, sedentary behavior also increases the risk of mental problems like anxiety and depression. Researchers out of Deakin University’s Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research in Australia found a positive association between sitting time and anxiety symptoms [5], although the current evidence is limited and still need to be determined through longitudinal and interventional studies.

To reduce or avoid the health hazards caused by prolonged sitting, we should transform into a more active and healthy lifestyle – to sit less, move more. It may take some to get used to, but it’s certainly worth it because it can prevent you from suffering any health problems caused by sedentary behavior.

Let’s get moving for a healthier life!


[1].    van der Berg, J.D., Stehouwer, C.D.A., Bosma, H. et al. Diabetologia (2016) 59: 709. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00125-015-3861-8

[2].    Prabha Siddarth, Alison C. Burggren, Harris A Eyre, Gary W. Small, David A. Merrill. Sedentary behavior associated with reduced medial temporal lobe thickness in middle-aged and older adults. PLOS.  https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0195549

[3].    Sedentary behavior increases the risk of certain cancers[J]. JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Volume 106, Issue 7, 1 July 2014, dju206, https://doi.org/10.1093/jnci/dju206

[4].    Biswas A, Oh PI, Faulkner GE, Bajaj RR, Silver MA, Mitchell MS, et al. Sedentary Time and Its Association With Risk for Disease Incidence, Mortality, and Hospitalization in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Ann Intern Med. 2015, 162:123–132. doi: 10.7326/M14-1651

[5].    Megan Teychenne, Sarah A Costigan, Kate Parker. The association between sedentary behaviour and risk of anxiety: a systematic review. BMC Public Health. 2015, 15:513 https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-015-1843-x