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Time to Get Up! The Connection Between Sitting and Heart Disease

Time to Get Up! The Connection Between Sitting and Heart Disease

In 2016, The World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) published that long working hours has led to approximately 745,000 deaths. Half of these deaths were due to stroke while the other half was due to ischemic heart disease. This has lead to an interest in determining whether sitting and heart disease or stroke have a connection to each other.

Sitting and Heart Disease: Long Work Hours

The working hours of the people mentioned above were at about 55 hours per week. This means that if they were working the typical 5 days a week, they were in their offices for at least 10-11 hours a day. These people worked 55 hours a week between ages 45 to 74 years old, and died at ages 60-79 years old.

How is long working hours to blame? Is there an association between prolonged sitting and heart disease? These are some of the many questions to be answered in this article.

Sitting and Heart Disease: What is the Connection Between Long Working Hours and Stroke/ Ischemic Heart Disease?

Due to the trends of the modern workforce and advancements in technology, jobs are typically less physically demanding and instead are more mentally taxing. Due to this, there has been an increase in sedentariness. This sedentariness has caused the risk of heart disease and stroke to increase.

If we consider the previously mentioned data, workers have 11 hours a day to work, 8 hours to sleep, and 5 hours for any other activities, which may involve their commute to work, eating, or socialization. The nature of this type of schedule leaves little time for physical activity.

Sitting and Heart Disease

According to the American Heart Association, sedentary behavior and physical inactivity are among the leading modifiable risk factors in the development of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality. Sitting and heart disease are correlated with one another. This is because long working hours in jobs of sedentary nature (such as office workers) offers little occupational physical activity.

This sedentary behavior can be seen in many people in the workforce, even in those who find the time to do leisure or purposeful physical activity. The American Heart Association recommends that these bouts of sedentary behavior should be intermittently broken up in order to put a stop to prolonged sedentary behaviors. This can be done by doing light exercise, or simply standing and leaving your desk for a few minutes every so often.

Sitting and Heart Disease: What Happens in People Who Sit for a Prolonged Period?

There are several other physiologic events that can be observed when people sit for a prolonged period of time:

Decreased Caloric Expenditure

During prolonged periods of sitting, the human body typically spends very little amounts of energy.

Simply walking or standing can increase the energy expenditure by as little as 10% to as high as 100%.

Diabetes and Obesity

Studies have shown that for every 2-hour increment of sitting at work, there is:

  • A 5% increased risk of developing obesity
  • A 7% increased risk of developing diabetes

This is true even when the said individual participates in physical activity or not.

Increased cholesterol levels due to a reduced production of lipoprotein lipase (LPL) while sitting

LPL is an enzyme that is involved in the regulation of fatty tissues, triglycerides, and cholesterol

This is why even patients with reduced LPL who find time to do adequate physical activity are still at risk for developing heart disease.

Increased risk for developing thromboses

Due to the inactivity of the lower extremity skeletal muscles, there may be vascular stasis in the legs. This may lead to thrombosis (blood clot formation) which may separate from the vessel walls leading to an emboli (loose blood clot)

The development of emboli is associated with the development of stroke.

Key Takeaway

More people are working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Following this, many have transitioned to more sedentary behaviors due to the nature of their occupations.

Sedentary behavior typically involves prolonged periods of sitting while working. The association between prolonged sitting and heart disease / stroke is well established.

Government agencies, employers, and employees should work together in establishing agreements to keep working hours below 55 hours a week. Allowing flexible schedules also lets employees perform light physical activity in between their work.

Learn more about Heart Disease here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Study on Association of Working Hours and Occupational Physical Activity with the Occurrence of Coronary Heart Disease in a Chinese Population, https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0185598, Accessed on June 16, 2021

Long Working Hours Increasing Deaths From Heart Disease and Stroke: WHO, ILO, https://www.who.int/news/item/17-05-2021-long-working-hours-increasing-deaths-from-heart-disease-and-stroke-who-ilo, Accessed on June 16, 2021

Sedentary Behavior, Exercise, and Cardiovascular Health, https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.118.312669, Accessed on June 16, 2021

Prolonged Sitting: Current Concepts on the Pgysiological Effects of Seated Postures at Work, https://aeasseincludes.assp.org/professionalsafety/pastissues/059/09/F3Stu_0914Z.pdf, Accessed on June 16, 2021

Sitting too much may raise heart disease risk, https://www.heart.org/en/news/2018/05/01/sitting-too-much-may-raise-heart-disease-risk, Accessed on June 16, 2021


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Written by Gerard Tamayo Updated Jun 25, 2021
Fact Checked by Hello Doctor Medical Panel