What Happens to Your Body When You Sit All Day?

a woman working at her desk


As we transition to working more office jobs, watching more tv, or spending more time just sitting back and relaxing, we’re also adding more time than ever to how long we sit each day. In fact, the average American spends nearly 10 hours a day sitting. That comes out to just over 150 days each year!

Today we’re exploring what happens to your body when you sit all day as well as some simple adjustments you can make to help protect your physical and mental health.

Do You Know What Happens to Your Body When You Sit All Day?

The risks of sitting all day go much further than just gaining a few extra pounds. In fact, this seemingly innocuous activity can actually yield serious threats to your mental and physical well being. What happens to your body when you sit all day?

A few of the most common risks of sitting all day include:

  • Gaining weight
  • Chronic lower back pain and tight hips
  • Increased risk of anxiety, stress, and depression
  • Elevated risk of heart disease
  • Developing varicose veins
  • Neck and shoulder pain

Do You Gain Weight By Sitting All Day?

The answer to this question is absolutely yes. Or rather, studies show that sitting all day does decrease your body’s ability to process lipids, which can lead to unwanted weight gain. When you get up and move, your muscles release molecules such as lipoprotein lipase, which helps process the fats and sugars you eat.

Chronic Lower Back Pain From Sitting All Day

Another example of what happens to your body when you sit all day is that you’re more likely to develop chronic back pain and have tighter hips. When you’re sitting all day, your hip flexors shorten. Hip flexors are a group of muscles at the top of your thighs that help you move your lower body.

Sitting all day contributes to chronic back pain in a variety of ways. First, you’re more likely to develop bad sitting habits when you’re sitting all day. Bad posture leads to weakened core muscles as well as neck and back pain. Those who work in an office setting (even in a home office setup) are at an especially high risk here if you’re not using an ergonomic chair or creating an ergonomic workspace to prevent slouching.

Poor posture may also exacerbate the effects of spinal cord compression which can lead to premature degeneration. While aging and back pain don’t have to go hand-in-hand, not taking care of your spine while sitting all day can cause the typical symptoms of age related back pain to come on early.

Sitting down in a regular chair all day also focuses pressure on your lower back and pelvic region. For this reason, you may want to consider getting up every so often to avoid pain from sitting too long, find an alternative to your traditional office chair, or swap out a regular recliner in your living room for a zero gravity chair.

Reclining in the zero gravity position elevates the legs above the heart level and distributes your weight along your body. This reduces pressure on your lower back and pelvic region, making zero gravity chairs for back pain a popular choice. These chairs are also potentially beneficial for sciatica treatment at home.

Risks of Sitting All Day on Stress and Anxiety

Not all the risks of sitting all day are physical. Next up in our exploration of what happens to your body when you sit all day is the risk of elevated stress, anxiety, and depression symptoms. While there have been relatively few studies that pinpoint the exact reasons for this correlation, experts have theorized that it may be due to an increased feeling of isolation, disrupted sleep patterns caused by a sedentary lifestyle, and the negative cycle of depression increasing reluctance to be active while being inactive increases symptoms of depression.

One way to try and combat this is to get up and move every so often to avoid the negative health problems of sitting all day. This could mean learning a few exercises to do at work to stay loose, going for a short walk during a lunch break, or simply making sure you get up and actively stretch at least once an hour in order to stay limber. Looking for ways to increase mobility and flexibility is crucial against the negative effects of sitting too long. 

Elevated Risk of Heart Disease

We can’t talk about what happens to your body when you sit all day without discussing the elevated risk of heart disease. Simply put, one of the most serious risks of sitting all day is cardiovascular disease.

One study found that men who spent more than 23 hours per week being sedentary had a 64% greater risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than men who were only sedentary for 11 hours. That same study also showed that sitting in a car for more than 10 hours each week versus 4 hours increased their risk of heart disease by 82%.

As the leading cause of death in the United States, this highlights the absolute necessity of getting up and moving around throughout your day versus sitting too long for any period of time. Such a simple lifestyle change could make all the difference. 

Varicose Veins From Sitting All Day

Though the next item on our list of what happens to your body when you sit all day isn’t typically harmful in itself, varicose veins are most typically unwanted and unwelcome. Sitting for long periods of time can cause blood to pool in the legs, causing the veins to swell and become visible. In rare cases, they can lead to more serious conditions, like ulcers, bleeding, or blood clots.

Stiff Neck and Shoulders

While not always a serious health danger right away, one of the risks of sitting all day is developing a stiff neck and shoulders. Similar to the causes of lower back pain from poor posture, subconsciously slouching or leaning forward towards a work screen can cause the muscles in your neck and shoulders to stiffen.

There are simple exercises you can do when learning how to relieve a stiff neck that can help provide neck and back pain relief. The easiest method to avoid this pain altogether, however, is ensuring you’re sitting up straight, have an ergonomic workspace, and get up to stretch and move at least once every hour.

We hope this guide has helped you get a better understanding of what happens to your body when you sit all day. The consequences and risks of sitting all day range from discomfort to severe. To avoid the negative effects of sitting all day, make sure you’re getting up and staying active, taking breaks regularly, and practicing good posture whether you’re in an office chair, on a couch, or sitting in a zero gravity chair. Making a few simple lifestyle adjustments can make a huge difference and keep you feeling excellent!

Want to learn more on the health benefits of zero gravity chairs and how they may enhance your lifestyle? Check out these guides for more information: