Is Sitting the New Smoking?

Is Sitting the New Smoking?

The sitting position is not really all that bad for you. It can give other parts of your body, such as your legs, feet and back, a much-needed rest.

What is bad for you is sitting all day. If you have a full-time job or lifestyle in which you are sedentary most of time, the effects can be as serious and harmful as if you were a smoker.

“Sitting is the new smoking” is a phrase that has gained popularity in the last few years after it was coined by Dr. James A. Levine, a leading researcher on inactivity, obesity and nutrition at the Mayo Clinic. Dr. Levine claimed: “Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death.”

What happens when you sit all day?

The typical American sits an average of 9.3 hours daily—more time than most spend sleeping. Excessive sitting with little standing, stretching and walking movement leads to more than just stiff joints and muscles. It can result in high blood pressure and blood sugar, abnormal cholesterol levels and obesity. What’s worse is that those who sit most of the day have a higher risk of developing Type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease and several types of cancer, similar to those who smoke.

And just like smoking, the side effects of long-term sitting are irreversible and can lead to an early death. For example, women who sit for more than 6 hours a day have a 37 percent greater risk of death than women who sit for fewer than 3 hours a day, according to the American Cancer Society.

What are easy ways to change your sedentary lifestyle to a healthier, more active one?

It’s simple: Limit how much you sit, and make a conscious effort to add more movement to your day. This could include:

  • Setting an alarm on your watch, phone or computer to remind you to stand, stretch and even better, take a lap or two around your office or home.
  • Parking farther away at work or at the store, and taking the stairs instead of the elevator whenever you can.
  • Wearing a fitness tracker. A Fitbit or Garmin can offer you lots of data about your movement throughout the day, including how many steps you take per hour. But even a simple pedometer can be helpful.
  • Taking a walk at lunch or trying a walking meeting. Not only do walking meetings help you and your co-worker get more movement in, but they can also lead to increased creativity and engagement, and better communication.
  • Using commercial breaks to get off the couch. If you’re watching TV, get up during commercials. Walk around, do a few sets of exercises (pushups or jumping jacks) or stretch.
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