Has sitting become worse than smoking?
Prolonged sitting has become the crisis of our modern age
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Smoking is undeniably bad for your health and wellbeing but over the last 30 years this knowledge has become common sense so that more and more people are abstaining from this dangerous addiction or are taking the tough but worthwhile road to quitting. However it seems that one crisis has been replaced by another and you’re likely doing it right now. Sitting. Lounging. Relaxing. Call it what you will, our modern world of sitting and being inactive for extended periods of time is proving to cause a number of alarming issues.
Sitting is not our natural state. As humans, we are meant to be walking and in motion and prolonged sitting is seriously stressing our physiology in a number of ways. Not only does it create issues with our mobility, sitting has been shown suppress insulin production as well as the enzyme called lipoprotein lipase that’s turning bad cholesterol into good cholesterol. This explains some of the reasons why sitting is associated with an increase in diabetes and heart disease. An additional study even found that those who spent the most time sitting faced this string of deadly statistics: “112 percent increase in diabetes, a 147 percent increase in death from cardiovascular events, a 90 percent increase in death from cardiovascular causes, and a 49 percent increase in death from all causes.”
The comparison between smoking and sitting came from an Australian study done in 2012 that suggested that an hour of sitting shortens a person’s life by 22 minutes, whereas one cigarette reduces a person’s life by 11 minutes. This study created a media craze that brought further attention to this much needed topic. However, this hype also prompted further studies that ultimately determined that smoking and sitting cannot objectively be compared but that both are invariably bad for you, with smoking likely being much worse. What the media craze did bring attention to however, is that sitting is now the health epidemic of our time, especially when you think about the fact that not everyone smokes but everyone sits. What’s more is that even those who are reasonably active are still at risk. As some studies suggest that regular exercise it isn’t enough to offset the extensive amount of sitting that we do. So what can we do about it?
Sitting, relaxing, or bingeing on your favourite Netflix show doesn’t have to be a death sentence if it’s done sensibly. The recommendation is to move every 30 minutes as well as keep up with a regular exercise regime in order to counter the effects of prolonged sitting. Something as simple as getting up and going for a brief walk or stretch can help, unless however, that walk is to go out for a cigarette.
Change is gradual, just like our attitudes towards smoking, so an attitude shift needs to take place on a personal, corporate, and cultural level in order to fully address these issues. If you work at a desk, see where you work stands in terms of taking activity breaks or looking into exercise items likes walking treadmills or standing-desks. Look into starting a functional fitness training regime that will help with your mobility and fitness activities. You can also start by making individual choices to move more, like take a walking-meeting or lunch, taking the effort to walk to bathroom furthest away from your desk, walk over to your co-worker’s desk instead of sending an email, or even just standing up an stretching at regular intervals. Any additional movement you add to your routine will help in establishing lifelong healthy and functional habits.