Health & Medicine

Sitting too much can be deadly


(Image by Flickr user Tom Carmony (cc:by-nc-nd))

This story was originally covered by PRI's The Takeaway. 

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The average American spends about four hours each day watching television. People with desk jobs spend roughly 90 percent of the workday sitting down. All that sitting, PhD candidate Tatiana Y. Warren told The Takeaway, is extremely bad for people's health.

In fact, sitting too much may lead to early death. According to research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, men who reported sitting more than 6 hours each day were 18 percent more likely to die than men who sat less than 3 hours each day during the time period of the study. In that same time, women who reported sitting more than 6 hours per day were 37 percent more likely to die than women who sat less than 3 hours per day.

Exercising after work may not solve the problem, either. The study found that "the time spent sitting was independently associated with total mortality, regardless of physical activity level."

The constant sitting is a relatively new phenomenon, according to David McFadden, chief curator of the Museum of Art and Design in New York. Sitting in chairs, with arms and backs, was once reserved for people in power. It wasn't until the 1900s, with the invention of the modern office, that sitting truly took off for people in their jobs.

Now that sitting is the norm, our sedentary lifestyles may be killing us. According to research by Warren and others, published in the journal, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, the time spent riding in cars and watching television -- two activities strongly correlated with sitting down -- were found to be significant predictors of cardiovascular disease in men. High levels of physical activity, on the other hand, were related to significantly lower rates of cardiovascular disease.

Warren's advice: "Be more physically active, move around a little bit more, and sit a little less." She added, "Do we really need to sit more than 23 hours per week?"


"The Takeaway" is a national morning news program, delivering the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what's ahead. The show is a co-production of WNYC and PRI, in editorial collaboration with the BBC, The New York Times Radio, and WGBH. More at