Spend many hours sitting in a day? At the office or working from home, when driving or riding, in front of the television relaxing etc. Chances are you’re probably sitting while reading this.

Death by sitting

In a study* that compares adults who sat longer, it was discovered:

Adults who spend less than 2hrs a day sitting in front of the TV or other screen-based entertainment, faced 50 per cent increased risks of death from any cause.

Adults who spend more than 4hrs a day sitting to enjoy recreational screen time, faced 125 per cent increased risks of heart attack, chest pain or similar ailment.

“While a brief period of sitting here and there is natural, sitting for long periods of time can seriously impact your health, with research showing that having inadequate physical activity can cause a host of health risks,” shares Dr Bernice Liu, Principal Physiotherapist, Department of Physiotherapy, Sengkang General Hospital (SKH), a member of the SingHealth group.

Read more: Get tips to move more at home and at work. Plus, a 7-day exercise routine included!

Sedentary lifestyle is the new epidemic

Leading a sedentary lifestyle (lack of physical inactivity) has been identified as the fourth leading risk factor for global deaths, causing approximately 3.2 million deaths each year.

In fact, according to the WHO (World Health Organisation), 1 in 4 adults globally is not active enough and more than 80% of the world’s young population – from both developed and developing countries – lead sedentary lifestyles.

In Singapore, a health survey showed that only 19 per cent of adults aged 18 to 69 years old exercise regularly and more than half of people in Singapore do not exercise during their leisure time.

Read more: Increasing number of young Singaporeans are getting liver disease despite drinking less alcohol, why?

Moving yet still sedentary

Sedentary behaviour is defined as the time spent in activities involving low levels of energy expenditure (1.0 to 1.5 metabolic equivalent tasks (METS) such as sitting, watching television, and driving).

On the other hand, physical activity refers to any activity that results in your heart beating faster and breathing becomes quicker and it can be categorised into light, moderate and vigorous intensity.

Thus, one can be physically active and meet the guidelines, but still considered to be sedentary if they spend a significant part of the day sitting or lying down. Both being physically active and limiting the time spent sedentary are essential for one's wellbeing.

Sitting too much and its risks

Health risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle include:

  • Increased risk of heart disease and stroke, diabetes and obesity, high blood pressure, cancer and depression
  • Poor posture and slouching, neck and back pain, osteoporosis, and increased predisposition to falls and injury

If one spends a majority of their waking hours sedentary, exercising for just an hour once in a while is not going to negate the effects of prolonged sitting.

Watch video: Full-body exercises you can do at home!

*Extracted from "What are the risks of sitting too much?" by James A. Levine

Articles on HealthXchange.sg are meant for informational purposes only and cannot replace professional surgical, medical or health advice, examination, diagnosis or treatment. Photo courtesy of iStock.