Why sitting is considered the new smoking

Just like smoking, prolonged periods of sitting may take years off your life. It’s time to stand up for yourself.

Around the world, health warnings about the dangers of sitting for too long have been issued by experts including the Mayo Clinic and Harvard University, and in Australia VicHealth and Baker IDI Heart & Diabetes Institute.

As sitting for 6 hours or more a day can put us at risk of weight gain and type 2 diabetes, plus stiffened muscles, reduced circulation and even decreased levels of our ‘feel-good’ hormones (endorphins).
 
Physiotherapist David Hall confirms that while the research is only fairly recent it is well accepted by health practitioners.
 
What he finds particularly interesting is the research that suggests that even regular exercise doesn’t fully cancel out the negative impact of prolonged sitting. Hence the phrase ‘sitting is the new smoking’.

Move more every day

“It’s not that the exercise isn't helpful, it’s just that it won’t remove a factor that is shortening your life, in the same way exercise won’t cancel out the health impact of smoking a packet of cigarettes a day,” says Hall.
 
Despite the bad news, Hall says we can commit to countering the impact of our sitting hours from here on out and reap the benefits.
 
Start by building awareness about how much sitting you actually do.
 
“Ask, ‘What has my body done today? Have I had much variation in my posture? Have I used my body in different ways?’”
 
Next, work on integrating more standing and movement into your normal daily activities. 
 
Try:
exercising daily, even if it is only for short periods
standing more during your daily commute
walking at lunchtime rather than spending the entire time sitting
planning social catch-ups around a physical activity, such as a walk.
man writing on whiteboard

Small changes at work

Hall says the real challenge is finding ways to stand and move more during your workday.
 
“The research is showing that if you get up for 2 minutes every 30 minutes then the impacts of prolonged sitting can be reduced.”
 
He suggests configuring your computer to a printer further away from your desk and retrieving each printout rather than letting your printing build up.
 
“Drinking plenty of water and having a water bottle in sight has a lot of positive benefits. You need to get up regularly to refill your bottle and to go to the bathroom.”
 
Hall suggests making a pact with work buddies to walk over to each other and talk about work rather than just calling or emailing them. Standing during meetings – or at least getting up and standing for part of the meeting – is another good tip.
 
If you work for yourself consider a standing desk, which start from $500 at some outlets.
 
“One of the key advantages of having a ‘sit-to-stand’ adjustable workstation is that you can continue working while varying your posture. Alternate sitting and standing every 30 minutes or so.”
 
Making small but constant changes could add years to your life and also deliver more immediate health benefits.
 
Hall says we may see improvements in our sleep, energy levels and maybe even creativity!
 
So, what are you waiting for? Stand up for yourself and your health now!
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