Most of us have heard the saying “sitting is the new smoking” which is credited to Dr. Levine in reference to the growing epidemic of inactive lifestyles in the United States.
But is it true? Is sitting in a chair for long time that bad for you? We decided to find out.
Sitting has been branded as the “new smoking” for its public health risks.
Too much sitting increases the risk of various chronic health problems like type 2 diabetes, back pain, tight hips, osteoporosis, heart disease and blood clots in the legs. Extended sitting in front of the PC is harmful for yours eyes too.
Sedentary lifestyle is also dangerous for mental health. Mental health depends on exercise and being active. Lack of activity can increase the risk of depression, anxiety and dementia.
When you think of something that could threaten your life, you probably don’t think about sitting on your chair at work. But, it’s one of the biggest potential threats to your health according to many researchers.
We all know smoking as a silent killer. But, “Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, it kills more people than HIV, and it is more dangerous than skydiving.” In an interview with the LA Times, James Levine, a medicine professor at the Mayo Clinic said “we are sitting ourselves to death, the chair is out to kill us.”
How does a sitting lifestyle affect your body like smoking?
Living a seated lifestyle can be just as dangerous to your health as smoking. The less you sit or lie down during the day, the higher your chances of living a healthy life.
If you stand or move during the day, you have a lower risk of premature death compared to sitting at a desk. If you live an inactive lifestyle, you have a higher chance of gaining weight, depression, developing type 2 diabetes, cancer or heart disease,.
“Humans are made to stand upright”. Your heart and cardiovascular system work more efficiently in this way. Your intestines also work more efficiently when you stand up. It is common for people who are bedridden in hospital to have problems with bowel function.
When you’re physically active, on the other hand, your overall energy and stamina levels improve, and your bones stay strong.
The Science Behind Why Sitting Is The New Smoking
Sitting can be very comfortable. Why is it so bad? This is what happens when you spend too much time sitting:
- Blood flow slows down. If you sit for long time, it can allow fatty acids to build up in your blood vessels, leading to heart disease.
- Sitting for long periods of time can lead to insulin resistance, which can lead to type 2 diabetes and obesity, which is the two major risk factors for heart disease.
- A 2018 study found that 82% of people with blood clots sat much longer than the remaining 18%.
- Ability to process fat slows down. When you sit down, your body’s production of lipoprotein lipase (an enzyme that is essential for breaking down fat) drop by about 90%. When your body fails to break down fat, it will be stored instead.
The Real Facts ( Sitting Vs Smoking )
More than 25% of American adults sit for more than 10 hours a day. 44% of these people do little or no exercise. The average American is active less than 20 minutes a day and watches about three hours of television every day. 60-75 minutes of moderate activity can counteract the effects of excessive sitting.
According to a study in 2011 documented 800,000 people and their sitting habits. The study found that people who sit longer, compared to people who sit less, have a higher risk of illness and death just like smoking.
- Increased risk of developing diabetes by 112%.
- Increased risk of diseases such as heart attack and stroke by 147%.
- Higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease 90%.
- Increased risk of death by 49% from any cause.
Sitting is unavoidable! So it’s essential to recognize the issues and take action accordingly to avoid it. Here’s how you can ward off negative side effects:
Set the timer
Get up every hour and move around. You can walk around and stretch. To remind you, download reminder apps to your phone.
Watch your position
Poor posture can lead to bone damage, reduced circulation, fatigue, and loss of muscle strength. Whenever you sit, keep your shoulders back, your chin in, and your stomach toward your spine to keep your bones aligned, muscles engaged, and blood circulation flowing.
Take a stand.
If you can, why not opt for a standing desk? Not only will your heart thank you, but standing desks have been shown to increase creativity, productivity and brain function.
Take the stairs
Whenever possible avoid using the elevator. If you are living in the 1st or 2nd floor, you don’t need to use the elevator as I said earlier every physical activity counts.
Commit to exercising every day. You can attend a gym class or create your own home gym. You can also make a habit of playing something like cricket, football, tennis or any other interesting games.
Go for a Tour
If you think you are at risk of these sitting problem go for a tour. During your tour the body will be physically active most of the time. After coming back from the tour you will feel much much better trust me. I have this sitting problem due to my desk job and when ever I feel unwell I go for a tour. It works like medicine for me. I feel refreshing and it helps my productivity at work too.
Stretching the hips and lower body, flexibility training and yoga will keep your body healthy.
In recent years it has been said that “sitting is as harmful as smoking.” While, yes, sitting and smoking have negative health effects, it is impossible to compare them.
The difference between sitting and smoking is that society has expelled one and completely expanded over the other.
It’s great to rest. In fact, this is necessary. But you must know “Too much of every ting is poison“. At what point does “taking a break” turn into living a sedentary life? Take a look at the hours of your day. How many of them spend on a chair? Truly. While sitting at your desk may not equal smoking, but it can lead to the same results.
You should remember that “Every minute of physical activity counts!”
We know that sitting is unavoidable! Here’s how you can defend against any negative side effects:
Staying active is not as difficult as you might think. There are many easy ways to fit physical activity into your day.
Research shows that you can reduce your risk of these health problems, all with one simple lifestyle change: reducing the amount of time you spend sitting.
Dr. Levine estimates that, in the United States, we spend more than half of our waking hours sitting, whether it’s watching television, driving, or sitting at a desk at work or at home.
“We weren’t designed to sit,” says Dr. Joan Vernikos, former director of NASA’s Biological Sciences Division and author of “Sitting Kills, Moving Heals”. “The body is a continuous motion machine.” So you need to move as often as possible and also huff & puff sometimes.
- The Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/expert-answers/sitting/faq-20058005
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: https://www.bls.gov/news.release/atus.nr0.htm
- Better Health: The Danger of Sitting
- , 2011–2012, 2013, Australian Bureau of Statistics.
- Beaumont Health: https://www.beaumont.org/about-us