Why Sitting All Day Can Be A Silent Killer

Why Sitting All Day Can Be A Silent Killer

4 min read

The “Sitting Disease” is no joke hor, it’s backed by science.

Nowadays, machines and other technological advances are doing a lot of the moving for humans, so we’ve slipped into a pretty relaxed lifestyle where most things are done seated.

We sit to work. We sit to study. We sit to makan. We sit to socialise. We sit to watch stuff. We sit to play games. We sit to drive. We sit to nuah and do a zillion other things.

sitting disease seated at a desk

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Although you and I are likely to find this normal in Singapore, sitting or reclining for over eight hours a day is considered excessive by scientists. They’ve even coined the term “Sitting Disease” to refer to the metabolic syndrome and ill effects of an overly sedentary lifestyle. 

It can strike anyone from studious schoolkids (certainly not my sister) to hardworking office workers (yes, me) to full-time drivers (Dad) to couch potatoes (like Aunty Kiam Chye) to serial nappers (Grandpa).

Really so serious meh?

When our ka chngs are super-glued to seats for prolonged periods, getting butt acne is the least of our problems. As our total sitting time increases, so does our risk of an early death by any cause. 


Our organs and internal systems are designed to function optimally when our bodies are upright and in motion. Just 20 minutes in any fixed position starts inhibiting our metabolism. Problems from top to toe arise when sitting becomes our default posture.

sitting disease diagram of problems

Exercise alone can’t make the bad effects gostan 

Going into beast mode in the gym three times a week or playing a siong soccer game over the weekend can’t cancel out your excessive sitting. Even if you engage in 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week, the health risks can’t be totally reversed.

But wait, not everything’s gone case yet

The secret is to introduce more movement into our lives every single day. Once we start doing that, research shows that our health risks will start dipping. And our physical and psychological well-being will bounce back!

1. Build episode movements into your work schedule

Excessive sitting is worse if it’s accumulated in lengthy uninterrupted bouts.

sitting disease preventive exercises

Easy exercises include neck rolls, loosening shoulders, triceps stretches, arm circles, wrists and fingers stretches, torso twists, desk push-ups, seated bicycle crunches, hamstring stretches, lower-abs leg lifts and lunges. Be sure to sit up straight when you begin work again.

Or alternate between sitting and standing every half hour. A standing desk works if you wish to stand for most of the day. Being upright lets you move your body freely, instead of coiling up tight like a pitiful little hae bee.

2. Build extra movement into daily routines

Reimagine how your everyday life can incorporate more physical activity. 

sitting disease extra movement

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When at home… Dance like nobody’s watching when watching telly… Switch to audiobooks so you can walk or do household chores… Reduce home deliveries and step out for necessities or food.

When commuting… Walk or cycle to the MRT station instead of taking the feeder bus… Park further away from your destination and walk the rest of the way… Use the stairs instead of escalators or elevators.

When in the office… Stroll over to talk to colleagues instead of texting or emailing… Use the farthest restroom… Eat lunch out instead of at your desk.

sitting disease apple watch 10000 steps

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All these activities can go towards hitting your 10,000-steps-a-day goal, which you can track with mobile apps or wearable fitness trackers.

3. Build all kinds of activities into your fitness regime

Aim for varied multi-component physical activities to strengthen all your major muscle groups and improve your balance. The weekly adult benchmark is at least 150–300 minutes of aerobic physical activity for moderate intensity or half that for vigorous intensity. 

sitting disease fitness regime

Image source: Unsplash

Before there were hip present-day workouts like HIIT, Spin, Kickboxing, Trampolining, Pound, Zumba, Pilates, Aerial Yoga or Pole Dancing, there was movement. 

Our ancestors walked, ran, jumped, climbed, swam, hunted, gathered, fished, herded, fought and danced round the fire. These are all movements the human body is naturally designed for with its 360 joints and over 700 named skeletal muscles. So pick activities you love to do and exercising won’t be sian.

Last of all, stand up to the Sitting Culture

Our modern environments foster sedentariness in many ways. However, we can choose to stand up in a sea of sitters. And get a move on to better health! 

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