Why Sitting for Long Periods is Bad for Our Health

Why Sitting for Long Periods is Bad for Our Health

In this blog I’m going explain why sitting for long periods is bad for our health.

Have you heard the phrase “Sitting is the new smoking”?

This is because there are lots of health risks linked to inactivity and sitting for long periods, including postural problems such as back pain.

Sitting for long periods can have a hugely negative affect on the body, in particular our posture. When we sit, we have a tendency to slouch forward with our shoulders and our head.

Rounding through the shoulders shortens the chest muscles and over-stretches the upper back muscles. It compresses the lungs, so we can’t breathe correctly.

We also curve through the spine putting unnecessary pressure on the vertebrae and discs which over time results in back pain.

Also when our heads drop forward we tend to poke the chin forward which results in straining the muscles in our neck.

Optimal posture should be that our ears should be in line with our shoulders for our heads to be in the correct position.

For every 1 inch forward our neck muscles must cope with an extra 10lbs of strain trying to support the head.

As a population majority of us fall into this category if not worse, hence the high rates of people suffering with back, neck and shoulders issues.

To prove my point, check out how your friends and loved ones sit and stand from the side.



So we’ve now briefly covered what is happening to our upper body, lets check out the effects on the lower body.

Sitting for long periods can lead to weakening and wasting away of muscles such as hip flexors, leg and glutes. These muscles are all important for walking and stabilising our bodies. If these muscles are weak you are more likely to injure yourself from falls, and from strains when you do exercise.

Also when we sit our hip-flexors are shortened and will stay short, so much so that when we stand it results in us having a forward tilting pelvis. This in turn without regularly stretching of the hip flexors can compress the discs in the lower back, causing lower back pain.

What we need to bear in mind is that the brain is amazing at recognising repetitive actions so the more we do something the brain will set the body in the optimal position in order to become efficient at performing that task. Bluntly speaking we create a new ‘normal’ posture for ourselves through repetition of our jobs, hobbies and generally how we sit and stand.

Over time we can go from standing upright (neutral posture) to hunched over and suffering with pain and discomfort as the body tries to adjust.

What can we do to help us with this problem?

There are many things we can do to help off-set the impact of sitting.

  • Exercise as often as we can, daily is possible – a minimum of 150 minutes a week
  • Swap TV time or sitting hobbies for more active tasks and hobbies
  • Conduct a DSE (Display Screen Equipment) risk assessment to make sure your workstation is set up correctly for you. This will go a long way to reduce the impact of sitting for long periods and will ensure we have the best posture we can maintain whilst working.
  • We should make a point of getting up at least every hour, take a little walk, have a ‘brain break’, make a cup of tea and just shake off the tension.  Maybe you can stand up whilst taking a phone call, plan walking meetings or even invest in a ‘standing desk.’
  • You could do a few minutes of chair-based Pilates exercise at your desk, a couple of times a day to help ease tension and re-set the muscles that are work really hard during sitting. Even better you could perform these same exercises in a standing position.


Check out our FB group Pilates video’s for guidance on exercises you can perform


Pilates exercises are a fantastic way to address any postural issue we have created from sitting for too long. They help to strengthen our core stabilising muscles and increase flexibility in tight muscles. Which in turn will improve your posture and reduce aches and pains.

So now hopefully you have a better understanding on why sitting for long periods is bad for you. 

You also have some tips you can follow to reduce the health risks and your aches and pains.

Hope you’ve found the info useful, if so check out more of our blogs


If you would like more advice and guidance on how to improve your posture through Pilates, join our 21 day Pilates programme

For more information about our programme click on the link below

21 Day Pilates Programme