You’ve undoubtedly heard that smoking is bad for you. With it’s direct link in causing cancer and a slew of other diseases and health problems, smoking cigarettes has become a scorned deed across most of North America. But did you know that sitting could actually be worse for your health than smoking? The new slogan, “sitting is the new smoking,” seems to have erupted out of nowhere, leaving us reeling in those comfortable office chairs of ours.
It seems inconceivable, but numerous studies have now found that sitting or being sedentary for too long can lead to an assortment of health issues from back pain to heart disease and diabetes. In an interview with the LA Times, James Levine, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic, stated that sitting has actually killed more people than HIV.
Top 5 Risks of Sedentary Living
- Cardiovascular Health
There is evidence that sitting for prolonged periods of time can contribute to an increased risk for developing cardiovascular diseases. A review by the International Epidemiological Association found that two hours of screen time and sitting time per day can lead to a 5% and 17% increased risk of cardiovascular problems, respectively. Another study found that by introducing light activity into your sitting time on an hourly basis could lead to improved endothelial function in adults.
Numerous studies have found that sedentary lifestyles are linked with increased risks of developing endometrial cancer, colon cancer, and breast cancer.
- Type 2 Diabetes
A positive link has been found between sedentary behaviour and type 2 diabetes among adults. A study found that people who watched TV for more than 2 hours a day increased their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 20%. Another study found that interrupting sitting time with more than 1 minute of activity every 30 minutes could be effective in lowering insulin levels.
- Weight Gain
Multiple studies have proven that interruptions of sitting time with standing and stepping are associated with lower BMI scores, heart fat, liver fat, and waist circumference. Additionally, watching TV can lead to obesity in children and teenagers.
Research on this topic has found that sedentary behaviour is associated with an increased risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer by up to 24% to 49%.
The ugly truth is that sedentary lifestyles have become our norm over the last few decades. This type of lifestyle involves little to no physical activity. If you’re living a sedentary lifestyle, you’re likely spending most of your day sitting or lying down. Active Working, a group dedicated to rescuing people from their chairs, found that office workers sit an average of 10 hours a day. So, if you spend your working hours glued to your desk, you are living a sedentary lifestyle – no matter how active you may be outside of office hours. Unfortunately, with most of us working the standard 9-5 desk job, we’ve all seemed to unknowingly fall into this rut.
The uglier truth is the fact that a couple of hours of physical activity before or after work likely won’t counterbalance any of the associated health effects of those marathon sitting sessions. You simply can’t combat 8 hours of stillness with 1 hour of movement.
So, with most of us welded to our desks and computers, what’s the solution? And if sitting is, in fact, the new smoking, how can we quit?
Here are a few tips and tricks for getting yourself out of your chair:
- Stand during phone calls
- Stand or take a walking break from your computer every 30 minutes
- Use the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator
- Have standing or walking meetings
- Eat your lunch away from your desk
- Walk to your coworker’s desk instead of calling or emailing them
Now that you have some handy tips, you can get moving and save yourself from that dangerously comfortable chair of yours!