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Sitting Is A Silent Killer

Updated: Nov 23, 2022

If you read enough of my blog articles, you will probably hear a lot about the importance of non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or "NEAT," for weight maintenance and weight loss.

"NEAT" refers to the entirety of your physical activity over an entire day, not including any purposeful exercise (if you exercise).

This includes everything from walking to the store from your car to fidgeting, even texting on your phone. NEAT makes up most of the calories you burn in a day. Because it is most of your day, it is also the place where you can make the most significant impact on the number of calories you burn in a day.

NEAT is one of the most crucial yet often one of the most ignored components of a successful weight management program. There is a large amount of evidence about the critical role NEAT plays in weight regulation. Still, there is growing scientific evidence about the role it plays in long-term health. Here's an interesting study that was done on the subject.

The Study

There was an analysis done in 1992 by the American Cancer Society to learn about cancer incidence and mortality. The study was drawn from 123,216 participants. This research was done on healthy individuals with no personal history of cancer, heart attack, stroke, lung disease, and many other lifestyle factors.

The researchers' outcome was the death of any cause occurring between 1 year after the enrollment into the study and December 31, 2006. The participants answered a questionnaire before being included in the survey, which asked them various questions helping the scientists narrow down who would qualify for the study.

One of these questions asked how much time they spent sitting, as well as physical activity levels. Sitting time was described as 0 to less than 3 hours per day, 3-5 hours per day, and 6+ hours per day. Hours spent in recreational physical activity were classified into different categories as well.

The scientists analyzed the relationships between sitting time, physical activity, and death rates. They also adjusted for factors that can affect the risk of death (such as BMI, which is an indicator of body weight).

Silent Killer

During the study, 11,307 males and 7,923 females died. The scientists found that time spent sitting was associated with all-cause mortality in both males and females. This is even after they made adjustments for other factors that could have affected mortality.

These results were utterly identical even after adjustments for leisure-time physical activity levels were made.

This means that extended periods of sitting were associated with a greater risk of death, even if the people engaged in purposeful exercise during their leisure time.

The mixture of long sitting times and low physical activity had the most significant association with mortality.

Female subjects who sat for 6 or more hours per day and engaged in less than 24.5 hours of activity per week had a 94% greater risk of death.

Males in the same category had a 48% greater risk of death.

The scientists then broke the results down by BMI to see if the effects were specific to a particular BMI class (average weight, obese, or overweight).

They found that low physical activity and extensive sitting time were significantly associated with mortality in all classes, regardless of BMI.

Let me say that again.

They found that low physical activity and extensive sitting time were significantly associated with mortality in all classes, regardless of BMI.

Get Up!

There is a clear association between prolonged sitting and increased risk of mortality.

This is also not the first study to show an association between sitting time and mortality/disease risk. Here is another recent study showing an association between sitting time and mortality that, as this other current study, was independent of leisure-time physical activity.

Another study showed that total sedentary time is associated with blood sugar control. Light activity, on the other hand, was associated with better blood sugar control.

This study from 2010 showed that if you spend more than 10 hours riding in a car, you will have an 82% greater risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. If you spend 23 hours per week of combined time from riding in a car and watching TV, that can be associated with a 64% greater risk of death.

While these studies cannot establish a 100% cause and effect outcome (if you do this, it's guaranteed that this will happen). They indicate a plausible relationship between too much sitting and an increased risk of disease and death.


I know that what you just read is indeed scary. I hope this is enough data to help you realize that too much sitting is terrible for you, even if you engage in purposeful exercise daily.

All hope is not lost. Chances are that no one has a gun to your head, forcing you to sit entirely still for hours at a time. That means you can take action and do something about it! Here are some tips and tricks that you can add to your daily routine to help mitigate some of the effects that sitting may have on your health and lifespan.

It's not always easy to be mindful and take steps to prevent things that may cause premature death. If it was easy to do so, then fewer people would have issues like Type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease, which are all also completely preventable health issues. However, I think that the majority of us just don't know that how we are living is impacting our health so much.

We think that just because our mom or dad or grandparents had the health issue that we are trapped in the box of also having it, but this just isn't true. In reality, we have the same issues because we live the same way that they did. If dad ate Oreos for breakfast or had ice cream every night, then we think that's ok. And when we get diabetes or become obese or have high cholesterol, as "dad does," we don't blame it on our bad habits. We blame it on "genetics" when in reality, the only thing you really inherited was a bad habit. Most preventable diseases are not caused by deliberate negligence or genetics but by ignorance.

So yea, it may make you seem weird to your coworkers when you get up every half hour or hour to walk around the office or stretch, but this small task is something everyone should do. It should be normal to get up and move regularly, and it shouldn't be normal to sit in a chair for hours upon hours every day. So now that you are aware, you can no longer blame ignorance. Help yourself, and take time from now on to move just a little bit more every hour of every day, and share this information with your friends so they can live long, happy lives too!

If you have any questions feel free to reach out to me by e-mail, and if you have any other tips and tricks of your own that help you move more? Share them below! And as always if you found this article interesting or helpful please share it on Facebook or with a friend!

Keep Moving,


Coach Rachael

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