Go Ad-Free
logoThe People's Perspective on Medicine

Sitting Sabotages Good Health

People who spend much of their day sitting put themselves in harm's way with cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

Some health experts have taken to calling sitting the new smoking. In other words, a sedentary lifestyle puts you are significant risk for poor cardiovascular outcomes.

How Can We Counteract the Risks of Sitting?

A new study published in JAMA Network Open suggests that a simple intervention could make a difference (JAMA Network Open, March 27, 2024). This randomized clinical trial involved nearly 300 older adults between 60 and 89 years of age. These volunteers were both sedentary and overweight.

For six months, the researchers coached half the volunteers to stand up and move around at regular intervals. They also provided the participants with wrist-worn fitness bands that reminded them to stand. Accelerometers measured their activity at the beginning, midpoint and end of the study. In addition, each volunteer got a standing desk, a workbook and feedback on their accelerometer data. Researchers measured blood pressure at the start and finish of the study. During the pandemic, they coached participants on utilizing electronic blood pressure monitors.

People in the control group got coaching and workbooks pertaining to healthy living topics other than standing. The researchers also used accelerometers to measure their activity levels.

Results of the I-STAND Study:

The intervention was successful in getting people to decrease the amount of time they spent sitting during the day. The average was about half an hour less each day. In addition, systolic blood pressure dropped significantly. The average reduction in systolic blood pressure was about 3.5 points, which is comparable to the effects of common blood pressure medications.

The scientists conclude that

“Reducing sitting time could be a practical strategy for promoting cardiometabolic health in older populations.”

This is not the first study to find that sitting less is better for our health. We wrote about one such study nearly a decade ago. You can learn more about it below.

Sitting and Survival:

Canadian researchers analyzed data from 47 studies (Annals of Internal Medicine,  Jan. 20, 2015). The results demonstrated that people who spend a lot of their day sitting down have a significantly higher chance of developing heart disease, cancer or diabetes. They also increased their risk of dying from any cause by about 25 percent.

The scientists found that the risks start to rise when people sit for at least eight hours daily, whether they are driving, staring at a computer screen or watching TV. (Watching TV may hold special hazards.)

Those who think exercising for half an hour a day will undo this damage may be mistaken. While some exercise is better than no exercise, the bottom line is to spend less time on your bottom and more time being active.

Learn More:

We discussed this topic in depth during our one-hour interview with Dr. James A. Levine of the Mayo Clinic in 2012. His book, Move a Little, Lose a Lot, summarizes the convincing research to that point showing that we should spend much less time sitting and telling us how to arrange that.

Rate this article
4.6- 60 ratings
About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
Tired of the ads on our website?

Now you can browse our website completely ad-free for just $5 / month. Stay up to date on breaking health news and support our work without the distraction of advertisements.

Browse our website ad-free
  • Rosenberg DE et al, "Sitting time reduction and blood pressure in older adults: A randomized clinical trial." JAMA Network Open, March 27, 2024. DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2024.3234
  • Biswas A et al, "Sedentary time and its association with risk for disease incidence, mortality, and hospitalization in adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis." Annals of Internal Medicine,  Jan. 20, 2015. https://doi.org/10.7326/M14-1651
Join over 150,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

We're empowering you to make wise decisions about your own health, by providing you with essential health information about both medical and alternative treatment options.