In recent years, the media and newspapers have been circulating the news that sitting is the new smoking. Our thoughts? It’s not that serious. Let’s take a look at both sides of the argument.
Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic coined the eye-catching and fear-mongering phrase, “sitting is the new smoking.” According to Dr. Levine, sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV, and is more treacherous than parachuting. Data has shown that sitting can lead to cardiovascular disease and can lead to other minor health problems like obesity and back, neck, and sciatica pain. But the data on this isn’t very strong.
We know this much: a sedentary lifestyle is not good for our bodies. Leading a sedentary lifestyle has been associated with higher risks of depression. We know movement and exercise are important. But we don’t think sitting down is going to kill you, especially if you’re maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle. If you’re a couch potato that stays in the same position all day playing video games, you’re going to have health problems. Alternatively, if you work at a job that requires you to be on your feet all day, you’re looking forward to the times where you get to sit down and relax – and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Our overall analysis is that sitting is not literally as bad as smoking. The shock factor of that statement might do the trick though to get people thinking about how much they move in a day. The American Journal of Public Health says that while research does suggest excessive sitting (8+ hours) increases the risk of premature death and some chronic diseases by 10 to 20 percent, it pales in comparison to the risks associated with smoking. Smoking increases the risk of premature death by approximately 180 percent.
What about office workers?
So many of us end up stuck at a desk working for eight or more hours per day. The question we hear most often is: Is there a right way to sit? Researchers and health product companies try to create a “one size fits all” answer to the way you’re supposed to sit at work – from the posture you use to the type of chair or lack of a chair altogether. Our answer is that everyone is different. There’s not really an ideal posture. What matters is that you listen to your body and have some variability in the way you work. Any repetitive motion is not good. Even if you stand and work all day with a standing desk, you’re going to feel discomfort or pain because you’re not including any variability. Keeping your options open between sitting and standing at your desk and being conscious about moving around every hour or so will do the trick for less pain.
Sitting is not as bad for you as smoking. But it is important to balance out your time spent sitting with movement and exercise throughout the day to maintain your health. The most important thing is to listen to your body and do what’s right for it.
To learn more on this topic, listen to our podcast: https://soundcloud.com/training_room_talk/episode-35-is-sitting-is-the-new-smoking