Is Sitting Really That Bad?

Why some studies call sitting “the new smoking”



Sitting for long periods of time can lead to an increased risk for high blood pressure, as well as stiffness, back pain and weakened leg muscles.


Working from home has probably had several noticeable effects on your mind and body. One change that might have flown under your radar is the result of sitting for increased periods of time. Even if you feel like you’ve been moving the same amount, chances are small differences in the way your day works have bumped up the total time you spend sitting.

Instead of climbing a couple flights of stairs in Lowenstein in between classes, this semester’s in-between class activity has probably turned into a quick run to the bathroom before parking yourself back down in front of your computer for your next Zoom class. The short stroll to Argo Tea has turned into a meager few steps into your kitchen for a drink.

Megan Ferreira, Fordham College at Lincoln Center ’23, is currently taking five online classes and one hybrid class. “I find myself sitting a lot more during and especially after online classes, while during regular classes I would be walking between buildings or changing location to do work,” said Ferreira.

But how does this negatively impact your body?

Ferreira stated that she had to add more stretching into her routine because of stiffness from sitting in front of a computer for so long. She also purchased blue light glasses to help with the migraines she has experienced from increased screen time.

Sitting burns less energy than moving or even just standing. MayoClinic recently reported that sitting for long stretches of time can raise blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels. It also cited a study analysis stating that individuals who sit for over eight hours a day with no physical activity have an increased risk of dying comparable to that of individuals who smoke.

OrthoExpress also notes soreness or stiffness in certain body parts due to sitting. A stiff neck and shoulders can be caused by hunching over your computer or phone. Sitting also compresses the spine and shortens the hip flexor muscles, which can cause back pain and tightness in the hips. Leg muscles can also weaken due to decreased activity.

While research in this field is relatively underdeveloped and more information is needed before fully definitive conclusions about the health effects incurred by lengthy periods spent sitting can be made, we can still conclude that the effects of sitting may be severe.

Luckily, they can be avoided using a few simple fixes.

An easy way to increase your standing time is to become more intentional about which tasks you perform in which way.

The MayoClinic report cited an analysis that found that exercising at a moderate to intense level for 60 to 75 minutes a day negated the consequences of sitting too much. It also recommends breaking up your sitting every half hour, whether this be by standing up, walking around a bit or taking a stretch break. An easy way to increase your standing time is to become more intentional about which tasks you perform in which way. For example, talking on the phone is easy to do standing up.

If you work at a desk, switching to an adjustable standing desk can also help reduce sitting time. However, this can be a pricey option: StandDesk states that a manually adjustable standing desk starts at $180, while electrically adjustable standing desks can run you anywhere from $480 to $2,000. These certainly aren’t necessary for maintaining one’s health, and a more cost-efficient swap may be finding a higher surface, such as a high counter, that offers a height at which you can stand while working.

Although the consequences that come along with sitting too much can seem pretty scary, your work-from-home setup doesn’t have to change much to keep your body in good health. Stand up for a bit every 30 minutes, exercise regularly, look for a high surface that can function as a standing desk and just keep powering through.