Here’s What Happens When You Sit Too Long 

February 08, 2022

sitting at a desk too long In this post, we’re going to talk about what happens to your body when you sit for too long.

Have you heard the phrase, “sitting is the new smoking”? Does that sound a little morbid and severe?

I mean, come on, how can sitting for an extended amount of time be equivalent to inhaling the harmful, cancer-causing chemicals of smoking?

Well, I am here to tell you that it is not hyperbole.

Studies are showing over and over that people that sit more than eight hours per day with no physical activity have risks of death comparable to obesity and smoking.¹

Furthermore, sitting for an extended period of time can wreak havoc on your back and neck.

The good news is that movement is the best medicine, and in this blog, I am going to walk you through tips and tricks to ensure that you can stand up to sitting and not allow it to make you a statistic.



What happens to your body when you sit too long?


“Exactly how sitting a lot contributes to poor health isn’t clear. But some research suggests that it has harmful effects on sugar and fat metabolism, both of which affect a person’s risk of diabetes and heart disease, says Dr. I-Min Lee, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.”²


On average, our bodies burn 30% more calories when we are standing. Therefore, if you consume the same amount of calories on the days you are sitting compared to being active – those calories are not being converted into energy, and thus, stored as fat. In a single sitting (pun intended), the effects are benign. However, over the course of months or even years, the adverse impact on the body can be substantial.


Back and Neck Pain From Sitting Too Long

Remember when I mentioned that sitting for long periods of time can also wreak havoc on your back and neck?

While that might not be groundbreaking news, I am going to give you proven tips that I share with my patients every day.

Remember, these recommendations are only as good as the consistency behind them.

So if you don’t do them regularly or fail to do them correctly, don’t come complaining to me that they didn’t work. We live in a world of instant gratification and quick fixes – and I am here to tell you that I’m not here to promote “hacks”…. I’m here to promote healthy habits.

First and foremost, it all starts with posture.

While sitting for extended periods of time has been proven to be unhealthy, it is also a necessity in this informational age. So, if you must sit, then let’s do it in a way that minimizes the damage.

Here is a great video that walks you through step by step how to best set up your workstation at home or at work.


Watch on YouTube: Setting Up Your Desk For Better Posture


Furthermore, there are stretches and exercises we recommend doing in order when you get up and move at least once an hour.

  1. W’s
  2. Band Pull Aparts
  3. Sit To Stand
  4. Hip Hinges
  5. Upper Trap Stretch
  6. Pec Stretch


Leg Pain From Sitting Too Long

Leg pain from sitting is also a common affliction that we see at Tangelo Chiropractor + Rehab.

From nerve pain that runs down to the back of the leg to stiff and achy knees, we have seen it all.


Here are some exercises that we recommend to help prevent a rise in pain from bringing you down.

  1. Seated Sciatic Nerve Floss
  2. Air Squats
  3. Psoas Stretch
  4. Seated Piriformis Stretch 


The Solution

Move and move often.

That is part of the solution to all the aforementioned problems. When you are working, move at least 5 minutes every hour. A great trick is to keep water within your peripheral vision.

And if you consume enough water during the hour, biology will kick in, and you will be incentivized to move.

Furthermore, find an exercise regimen that you enjoy.

Don’t worry about what influencers tell you to do – do what you enjoy and do it often. 60-75 minutes of moderate activity every day will work wonders in helping to prevent cardiovascular and musculoskeletal conditions.

Take control of your health through your habits. Thank you so much for reading, and we’ll see you in the next blog.