Geeks wake up! Excessive sitting may be hazardous to your health

Pamela Egan Practical Practitioner


By: Pamela Egan, FNP-C CDE



Geeks wake up!  Excessive sitting may be hazardous to your health



DECEMBER 30, 2007 – With the advent of degrees in media arts, applied computing systems and technology, more and more intellectually gifted are sitting behind computers for hours on end. Yes, they may be in a higher income bracket than the average entrepreneur, but what will it mean for their health? The very sedentary nature of the job or seated immobility can be hazardous to your health.

The author of a New Zealand study on thrombosis recently reported that office workers glued to computer screens are at a greater risk of deadly blood clots forming in their legs than long distance air travelers.

The study found that 34% of patients admitted to hospitals with blood clots had been seated at work for long periods of time. The risk is there, of blood clots developing in the veins of the legs, when one is seated for long periods of time. The main groups affected are workers in the information technology industry.

The other interesting part of the study was the length of time that the affected individuals worked. The study had people working up to 12 – 14 hours a day and being seated for that time. Some reported being seated on the job for 3 – 4 hours at a stretch. Comparing this group, with those who travel on long-haul flights, is far higher than the 1.4% of blood-clot patient travelers.

In a series of studies that will be presented at the Second International Congress on Physical Activity & Health in Amsterdam, they studied the effects of sitting in offices, using computers, reading, talking on the phone and watching TV.

They found evidence that sitting had negative effects on fat and cholesterol metabolism. The research showed that physical inactivity throughout the day stimulated disease-promoting processes, and that exercising an hour a day, was not sufficient to reverse the effect. This study showed that standing or other non-exercise activities burns calories in most adults even if they do not exercise at all.

The enzymes in the blood vessels of muscles responsible for ‘fat burning’ are shut off within hours of not moving. Standing and moving lightly will re-engage the enzymes, but since people are awake during the day, it stands to reason that when people sit much of that time they are losing the opportunity for optimum metabolism throughout the day.

So, typing while standing and even fidgeting while standing may be the answer for those in the computer field. To hold the body that weighs 170 pounds upright takes a fair amount of energy from muscles. There is a large energy associated with standing every day that can’t be easily compensated for by 30 to 60 minutes at the gym.

This study advocates limiting “sitting time”. This research reveals that too little exercise and excessive sitting destroys health. So maybe it’s time for all of the computer gurus out there to incorporate a ‘standing desk’ to reverse the risks of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity that may result from inactivity.

Pamela Egan, FNP-C, CDE is a board certified Adult & Family Nurse Practitioner, Certified Diabetes Educator & Clinical Specialist in Mental Health. She practices in Women’s Health with Kathy Posey, MD & can be reached at 985-867-1700 or > Health Articles > Health and Wellness