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Health & Exercise Forum

Studies Show that Sitting is Unhealthy

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Jan 21, 2013

Dr. Mackarey's Health & Exercise ForumMim Joseph, a librarian retired from the North Pocono School District, is someone whom I have held in high regard for many years. She has been retired from her career for many years but has not retired from life…she is open-minded, intellectually curious and reads incessantly. She remains active despite some recent health issues and makes a significant effort to “stay off her butt!” She recently read an article in the New York Times about the perils of sitting too much and thought it was a good topic for my readers…I agree. Thank you, Mim.

Recent research has correlated the amount of time an individual watches television to a decrease in their average life expectancy. Seriously, watching television and sitting is literally killing us. The Heart and Diabetes Institute of Australia conducted extensive research on sedentary behavior, including a review of almost one million people. They used actuary science, adjusted for smoking, waist circumference, and diet and exercise habits to assess the specific effects that the hours of sitting in a day impacts a person’s life span. They found that sitting too long results in a decrease in muscle contraction of the big leg muscles and because these unused muscles need less fuel, more unused glucose (fuel) is stored in the muscle. High glucose levels result in high blood sugar, which leads to adult onset diabetes and other health issues.

How Sitting (TV Viewing) Impacts Life Span – as compared to non-viewers

  • One Hour Sitting (TV) after age 25 =   Decrease Life Span by 21.8 Minutes
  • One Cigarette Smoked after age 25 =   Decrease Life Span by 11 Minutes
  • Six Hours Sitting (TV) over lifetime = Decrease Life Span by 4.8 Years

It is very important to note that exercise alone was NOT the solution. Even people who exercise 30 minutes 3-4 days per week or more, but watch more than six hours of TV, have the same mortality as a non exerciser who does NOT watch TV.

But, if you watch TV AND sit in a chair all day at work in a sedentary occupation, YOUR LONGEVITY IS SHORTENED DRAMATICALLY!

The average adult spends 50 – 70% of their non-sleeping life time sitting. Those with greater sedentary behavior (TV + Sitting Time), have 112% increase risk for adult onset diabetes, 147% increase for cardiovascular disease, 49% increase risk for premature death…even with regular exercise.

Tips to Get Off Your Butt


Exercise is still very important, but you still must sit less and be active in between exercise time.

Limit TV Time

Make a conscious effort to watch less than 2 hours of TV per day. Join the lower risk group.

Get Off Your Butt While Watching TV

When you watch TV, get up and move during every commercial…stand, walk, march in place.

Get Off Your Butt At Office

Every 30 minutes get up and stretch, march in place, or walk for 3-5 minutes. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Stand up during coffee breaks or when you‘re on the phone. Consider having meetings in which you stand up, use a standing desk or a work station which allows you to walk slowly on a treadmill while you’re working such as a TrekDesk.R (

In conclusion, don’t kid yourself. Exercise alone will not result in improved longevity if we eat poorly and sit around watching TV the rest of the time. It is about BALANCE…exercise, diet, stress management, and living an active lifestyle with more activity than inactivity. Shut off the TV and get off your butt!

NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!”

Paul J. Mackarey, PT, DHSc, OCS is doctor of health science specializing in orthopedic and sports physical therapy. He practices in downtown Scranton and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at The Commonwealth Medical College.

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: