Study: Sitting for a long time makes us sick

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Sitting less is healthier

In the western world, most people spend many hours sitting. Around every second works around the desk today. But sitting for a long time makes us sick, as various studies have shown.

One in two works at a desk Most people in the western world spend many hours sitting. In this country, roughly every second person works at a desk today. But sitting makes us sick and some even think it is new smoking. Adults spend an average of 50 to 70 percent of their time sitting. But sitting for long periods increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease and death, scientists from the University of Leicester (Great Britain) write in a study.

Too much time sitting down shortens life In a 14-year observational study, US scientists have also shown that spending too much time on chairs, armchairs and sofas shortens our lives. They published their results in the "American Journal of Epidemiology". According to this, men who spend six hours or more in their free time would have a 20 percent higher death rate. In women, this is even 40 percent, according to the study.

Most sick leave due to musculoskeletal disorders Dr. Lars Adolph from the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, however, is critical of reports and studies that demonize sitting as the new smoking and also blame for illnesses such as diabetes or heart diseases. "I don't think the scientific evidence for cause and effect is adequately secured," says the ergonomist. It is not clearly proven whether sitting is actually the cause of the illness or not, for example, poor nutrition or lack of exercise. But it is clear that sitting for long periods is not good. For example, health insurance companies have recorded most sick leave for years because of musculoskeletal disorders such as back pain, which are mainly caused by long periods of sitting. Adolph explains what makes this posture so unhealthy: “Sitting is a static activity in which our back muscles degenerate. The weakened muscles make it easier to adopt poor posture, make a rounded back and collapse. ”In addition, the intervertebral discs are not adequately supplied with nutrients when sitting still.

Lack of exercise is the real problem. Other complaints such as neck pain, fat legs, shoulder stinging and upper arm pain can also be the result of unnatural, incorrect posture. Jobs where you have to stand for a long time can also be harmful to your health. Because even here, the risk of back problems, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes could be increased if you exercise too little and eat more calories than you consume. So sitting isn't inherently unhealthy. Rather, it is the lack of exercise that is responsible for many diseases of civilization. It is therefore not possible to say how much sitting is too much at work. "Information like, a third sit, a third walk, a third stand are not scientifically proven," says Lars Adolph. "It is much more important to move more and sit dynamically overall," explained the scientific director of the Department of Products and Work Systems.

With "dynamic" sitting, experts like Adolph integrate movement into everyday working life that we should not just sit permanently, but lean back and relax from time to time to relieve the spine. In addition, movement should be integrated into everyday working life, for example by making a phone call while standing or going to the colleague next door instead of writing him an email. Movable desk chairs and height-adjustable tables are also useful. Exercises can help those who already suffer from pain.

Balancing sport after work Adolph advises: "In any case, you should move once an hour." Anyone who sits two hours in a row will notice how the body stiffens. It is therefore important to run a route during lunch break or hold a meeting from time to time. But those who have a predominantly sedentary office job cannot avoid a sport after work. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that adults exercise at least 150 minutes a week or exercise intensively for 75 minutes a week. "Moving doesn't have to mean that you have to become a competitive athlete," says Adolph. "Even walking is a relief for the back." (Ad)

Image: Andreas Morlok /

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