Sitting for your job and your cardiovascular health

The World Health Organization guidelines recommend reducing sedentary behaviours for improved health outcomes. However, little is known about the connection with prolonged occupational sitting and cardiovascular health.

New 2024 research (Occupational sitting time, leisure physical activity, and all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality) looked beyond just being inactive and investigated those which sat during the day for their occupation.

Participants in the ‘mostly sitting’ group tended to be younger and more educated, had fewer lifestyle risks like smoking and drinking, and were less likely to be overweight or obese, or have hypertension. However, the lower risk factors among the ‘mostly sitting’ group did not influence the higher probability of cardiovascular disease related death. There was a 34% higher risk of mortality due to CVD among the ‘mostly sitting at work’ group compared to the ‘alternating’ and ‘mostly non-sitting’ group.

The total number of participants in the study was 481,688:

-    Mostly sitting – 290,075

-    Alternating sitting and non-sitting – 140,210

-    Mostly non-sitting – 51,403

The total number of CVD-related deaths was 5371. Here is a breakdown of some of the results.

Population group CVD deaths (n) CVD deaths (%)
All participants
Mostly sitting 3234 60.2%
Alternating sitting and non-sitting 1407 26.2%
Mostly non-sitting 730 13.6%
Mostly sitting 1784 33.2%
Alternating sitting and non-sitting 703 13.1%
Mostly non-sitting 567 10.6%
Mostly sitting 1450 27.0%
Alternating sitting and non-sitting 704 13.1%
Mostly non-sitting 163 3.0%
Age <60
Mostly sitting 925 17.2%
Alternating sitting and non-sitting 578 10.8%
Mostly non-sitting 305 5.7%
Never smokers
Mostly sitting 1875 35.0%
Alternating sitting and non-sitting 836 15.6%
Mostly non-sitting 281 5.2%
Without hypertension
Mostly sitting 2280 42.5%
Alternating sitting and non-sitting 936 17.4%
Mostly non-sitting 435 8.1%
Without diabetes
Mostly sitting 2449 45.6%
Alternating sitting and non-sitting 1158 21.6%
Mostly non-sitting 610 11.4%

The study included a few potential reasons or explanations which may explain the harmful effects for prolonged sitting:

  • Deficient exercise of the large lower limb muscles and the truck of the body.
  • Reduced blood flow to the lower extremities.
  • The existence of a biomarker for low-grade inflammation.