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“Sitting Disease”: The Health Risks of Prolonged Sitting

Throughout the three-month coronavirus lockdown period in Nigeria, Ojo, a software developer with a tech startup in Lagos, had been working from home. Working from home got so comfortable for Ojo that he would spend an average of 8 to 9 hours on his seat developing software applications for his company. After the first few weeks, he developed this intense neck pain, which often radiated to his lower back. Worried it could be something serious, he visited his doctor and requested that a few investigations be done.

“Please, have an X-ray of my neck and spine checked, I hope I’m not having some serious problem,” Ojo asked Dr. Tunde.

Dr. Tunde asked a few questions including his daily routine and history of trauma. He then recommended some pain medications and advised him to adjust his sitting posture and work station to ensure he seats comfortably, exercise at least 30 minutes daily, and take a break after every 1 to 2 hours of sitting. After a few weeks of adjusting to the recommendations, Ojo felt better, the pain had resolved and, of course, he no longer sits on his home-office chair for unending hours.

If Ojo had kept up with sitting for long hours on end, back pain may not be the only problem Ojo might have to deal with. Described by the moniker “sitting disease”, there is a long list of health complications that arise from prolonged sitting.

Obesity & Cardiovascular Disease

Sitting for long hours makes you expend less energy than you consume, and the excess calories get stored as fats. When fat accumulates in your body in unhealthy amounts, it results in obesity, which puts you at risk of several diseases including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and arthritis. .


No matter how busy you are when you sit down for long periods, it is counted as physical inactivity. Such persistent sedentary lifestyle could put you at risk of developing certain types of cancers.

Blood Clots

Blood in our leg veins is usually pumped up to the heart by activity of our leg muscles, and sitting for long hours may impede that. As a result, blood becomes more viscous when flowing slowly and this could cause it to clot. If this clot breaks off and travels up to reach the lungs, it may block off oxygen delivery to the blood, and the rest of the body within minutes. If not treated on time, the individual may die within minutes.  This is the reason some people develop blood clots on long distance flights. Intermittent walking is recommended on long flights.

What to Do

Now that you know the health risks of sitting for hours, how can you cut down on the number of hours you spend sitting? The secret is to GET ACTIVE:

  • Take walking breaks after an hour or two of sitting
  • Engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day
  • Organize walking meetings or phone calls. Do you have a friend who likes to talk for hours on the phone? Well, arrange a “phone-walk” with them.
  • Take the stairs instead of the lift
  • Walk or cycle to work sometimes
  • Walk to your colleague’s desk instead of sending them a text or mail

For some, businesses are reopening and its back to work; for others, remote work continues. Whichever it is for you, remember to GET ACTIVE!!