How Sitting Is Killing You – Even If You’re Fit

Sitting is killing you slowly, whether you exercise – even intensely – every day or not.

A study published in 2017 shows that risk of death begins to rise once you sit for longer than 10 minutes at a time.

More specifically, this review found that sitting from 6 – 9 hours (or more) per day are associated with higher risk of death, cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

These risks are not reduced by moderate to vigorous physical activity, suggesting that prolonged sitting is harmful to health, regardless of how much one exercises.– American Heart Association (AHA), published in the journal ‘Circulation’


This was also found in heart disease patients whose health deteriorates with extensive sitting – even when they are active.


Modern Living Is Killing Us

As humans, we are primed to move. A long time ago, there were no couches or desk jobs. No cars to drive us to shops – we had to plant, forage, hunt, and carry things. Just look at babies and toddlers who, once they have acquired the motor development skills to crawl and walk, rarely keep still.

humans are primed to move

To explore their environment, learn and develop fully, movement is required. In fact – the arch of our feet can continue to develop until the age of 9! That is until parents and teachers start telling them to sit down, and when it doesn’t work, they get given iPads or put in front of a TV. ​


Why is sitting so harmful to health?

It should come as no surprise that sitting too much can lead to a lower metabolism and therefore weight gain – even if you exercise on a daily basis. But what about some ‘real’ negative effects on health? Well…



1. It’s bad for your heart

Sitting is bad for your heart
Coronary heart disease, stroke, heart attack, and cardiovascular disease (CVD)-related death have all been associated with sedentary lifestyles. (12)   Spending too much time on your behind has also been found to increase blood pressure and decrease the diameter of arteries, making heart disease more likely. (3)

2. It raises your risk for diabetes

Sitting raises the risk for Type 2 diabetes
One investigation found that people who drank a high calorie drink (like a Starbucks milkshake masquerading as coffee) and then sat flat for five hours, had 20% higher plasma insulin and glucose levels thank others who who got up for short breaks instead.
Another study suggests that sitting for just two hours after a meal could increase your blood sugar levels. In the long term, this paves the way for insulin resistance and consequently, diabetes. (45

3. You’re paving the way to osteoporosis

Sitting paves the way to Osteoporosis

Sedentary lifestyles are now associated with lower bone mineral density and osteoporosis in women AND men. (67)

The lower your bone mineral density, the weaker your bones.

4. You escalate your risk for cancer 

Sitting escalates your risk for cancer

by up to an alarming 66% (8).

Researchers found sedentary behaviour to be linked with a:

  • 24% higher risk of developing colon cancer
  • 32% greater chance of endometrial cancer
  • 21% increased risk of lung cancer

That’s sobering.

Watching TV, in particular, was associated with a 54% higher likelihood of colon cancer and 66% greater chance of endometrial cancer.

Once again, these associations remained strong even in people who worked out regularly!

Another big study also linked time spent seated to an increased risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and multiple myeloma. (9)


5. You die sooner

Sitting makes you Die sooner

There have been numerous studies that found a link between risk of early death and more time spent sitting.

​One published in 2018 by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine  estimated that prolonged sitting is responsible for 430,000 all-cause deaths over 54 countries, and a more recent study claimed that sedentary behavior is a leading risk factor for mortality, second only to smoking.

Also in 2018, survey results of more than 125 000 people found a 19% higher likelihood of death within the next two decades in participants that spent 6+ hours sitting per day.

That was compared to people who spent less time sitting once the workday was over.

Imagine what the percentage could have been if the movers also moved more at work.

And oh – the increased likelihood of death persisted even in those who exercised. (10)

But I have a desk job, what can I do? 

The good news is – even if you are required to sit for much of the day, there are easy solutions:

1. Get up every hour

Two minutes of movement per hour is all that you need, as was found  in a study conducted on more than 3200 people by the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

They found that light activity for 2min every hour, such as walking down the hall, can reduce your risk of premature death by a whopping 33%.

If you are trying to get rid of some extra kilo’s, dial it up a notch by doing jumping jacks, lunges or walking/jumping lunges, body/jumping squats, push ups, or even burpees, for 2min every hour.

Some exercise and movement ideas for your 2 minute get ups every hour in the video below. 




2. Walk to the shop

I find it a little puzzling how some people take their cars to the shop when it’s really close to their homes (okay, that is just me).

Here lies a perfect opportunity to tackle all the health risks listed above – AND – by carrying your bags, you can have the added benefits of doing a Farmer’s walk!

farmer's walk carry shopping bags


My opinion is that us women must stop letting men carry things for us that we are perfectly capable of carrying or lifting, even – or shall I say especially – when it requires a bit of effort.

My 70+ year old mother is one of those badass women who walk to the shop and carry all the heavy bags home, Farmer’s Walk style.


3. Park away further from your destination


You finally have a reason to get excited when there’s no parking close to where you want to be! Go grab that far away spot that no one wants, and you may even get some shade with it – win-win situation!


4. Take the damn stairs

As we have now established, it is not gonna kill you – quite the contrary. Whenever I used to travel, I always saw the majority of people take the escalators instead of the stairs (which happen to be right next to each other) on airports. Besides the health benefits, am I the only one with ants in my pants after sitting for so many hours?

My personal experience


This pic is of my brother and I on 18 December 2020, 10 days after I was practically bed ridden for 3 months, and done zero intense exercise since the end of 2016:

My Personal experience

I was not able to do any workouts or long / intense runs since the end of 2016. I only started slowly getting back into it during 2021.

How did I manage to keep my body shape and weight stable (alas, I did lose a bit of muscle…)?


  • prioritising sleep
  • eating healthy 80% of the time
  • CONSTANT movement

As in, all of the above four points basically. I walked everywhere and often during the day, never sitting down for too long.

That is how effective constant, low level movement can be for weight management (or loss), but also health, of course.

This of course works well only if your gut is healthy.



Sitting all day, which is common – and even required – these days, will make all your hard effort workouts mean little in terms of health.

Follow the ‘Get up and move for 2min (I like making it 3 minutes) every hour’ rule, and you are going to be in much better health than someone who sits all day and then goes to CrossFit or for a run.


What do you do to keep moving on a daily basis? 


Extra references:

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