Alberta Cancer Foundation

Expert Advice: Why Sitting All Day is Bad for You

Q: Recently I’ve heard that sitting all day at work is bad for me even if I’m getting regular exercise. Is this true and what can I do about it?

Dr. Christine Friedenreich, scientific leader of Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention Research and adjunct professor at the University of Calgary, confirms that there is now increasing scientific evidence that prolonged sitting is associated with an increased risk of developing several chronic diseases. These include different types of cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

“Research has demonstrated that the average person has the opportunity to sit for 15.5 hours per day even if they are incorporating 30 minutes of exercise into their daily routine,” she says. As a result, several agencies including the American Institute for Cancer Research/World Cancer Research Fund now recommend that, in addition to aiming for 150 minutes per week of moderate or 75 minutes per week of vigorous intensity activity, prolonged sitting should be avoided to reduce the risk of developing these diseases.

“Everyone should aim to avoid sitting all day whether at work, home or wherever they are,” says Friedenreich, who provides several options for breaking up sitting time that can be implemented in workplaces, homes and everyday life: “These include using a sit-stand desk at work, having standing or walking meetings, breaking up time while watching television or other screen-based activities, using stairs instead of elevators and trying to incorporate as much non-sitting time into everyday activities. Even a few minutes of standing to interrupt prolonged sitting is beneficial.”