Sitting is the New Smoking?

By Dr Ernst
May 8, 2017

I know what you are thinking… surely this can’t be true! For years we have been told by the Surgeon General, all medical professionals, and even our parents that the worst lifestyle habit you can possibly adopt is smoking. After all, its been directly linked to everything from diabetes to cancer. Ask any non-smoker (even current smokers) and they will all say “Smoking Isn’t Good For You!”

(PS. I’ve never met a smoker who wouldn’t enjoy not smoking anymore!)

However, as of 2015, there is a new lifestyle habit that is WORSE THAN SMOKING FOR YOUR HEALTH…. SITTING for prolonged periods of time! (If you sit at your desk for the majority of your work day – PAY ATTENTION, and stand up!)

A new study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that sedentary behavior increase your chance of getting any disease, particularly the ones that kill you prematurely (despite the amount of exercise you do!)

Think about this for a moment. You drive to your office (sitting). You sit at your desk most of the day. You drive home (sitting) and then have dinner (sitting) and watch tv (sitting). Do you see the connection yet? 80-90% of your day is sitting!

What Does The Research Say About Prolonged Sitting?

  • 1 in 10 premature deaths are the result of inactivity (the same as cigarettes)
  • ~5.3 million of the 57 million deaths in 2014 were attributed to inactivity
  • Primary causes of death are all related to sedentary lifestyle (Heart Disease, Type 2 Diabetes, Breast Cancer & Colon Cancer
  • 10% increase in daily moment (reducing inactivity) = 533,000 deaths/year averted
  • 25% increase in daily movement (reducing inactivity) = 1.3 million deaths/year averted
  • Lack of exercise has been linked to: 20% increase in Heart Disease, 30% increase in type 2 diabetes, 10% increase in breast and colon cancer, 35% increase in high blood pressure

How Prolonged Sitting (8+ hours daily) Affects Your Body

Head: Blood clots that form after sitting too long can travel to the brain, causing strokes

Lungs: In individuals who experience heart failure, fluid first backs up in the lungs

Arms: Pooling of blood can decrease oxygen to nerves, causing numbness and tingling

Stomach: Enzymes in blood vessels responsible for fat benign are shut off, bodies method of metabolizing sugar, protein and fat for fuel is diminished. Sugar/Proteins are converted into fat for storage due to inactivity of metabolism.

Neck: Fluid retained in the legs moves to the neck and night and causes snoring, congestion and obstructive sleep apnea. Cervical discs are compressed when sitting and leaning forward causing nerve compression, stiffness, muscle tension and nerve/disc pain.

Heart: Has to work harder due to generalized fluid stagnation in extremities due to viscosity increase with stagnation and decreased movement/blood flow

Lower Back: Lumbar discs become dehydrated and compressed due to inactivity and gravity load without distribution down the legs if standing/moving. Stiffness, muscle tension and nerve/disc pain.

Legs: Fluid collects in the legs during sitting due to gravity and lymphatic compression (weight of upper torso on lower torso/buttock) which would normally be pumped out with movement.

Once we look at the overall effects that prolonged sitting has on the entire body, it becomes easy to see why the researchers believe that sitting is equal to (or worst than) the negative effects smoking.

Now That You Know This – Stand Up and Take Action!

Set an alarm: If you work at a desk where sitting is the primary activity of your day, get into the habit of setting an alarm every hour to stand up for a minute or two and do something that moves your body. You can stand up and do some air squats, run in place, stretch, twist etc. Apple Watch Owners: your watch will automatically notify you. Don’t dismiss the alarm and keep sitting – use it as a reminder to get up for your health!

Sit on an air cushion: If your unable to do this, at the minimum sit on a wobble disc or some sort of air cushion that allows you to keep moving while sitting

Use a standing desk: If possible suggest to HR or your employer that you would like to have a standing desk installed. This allows you to stand the majority of the day and combat the health issue head on!

Get up and move during commercials: If you are watching TV sitting, use every commercial break to get up and walk, do some jumping jacks, pushups or any simple exercise. Use every commercial break and with how many there are you will be fit before your favorite show’s current season show is over!


Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on facebook