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Is Sitting The New Smoking?
  • Arati Shah

  • 22, Sep. 2023

Is Sitting The New Smoking?

For most of us, office work involves extended hours of sitting. Even today, in the pandemic with ‘work from home’ employees spend many hours either working on the computer or being on calls through video conferencing. It may be hard to imagine that such a simple, unplanned action can actually be compared to smoking with many adverse effects. Dr. Levine a Mayo Clinic specialist in obesity coined the phrase “sitting is the new smoking.” He opined that we're sitting ourselves to death. 

An expanded waistline is one of the first signs of a sedentary lifestyle. It is generally understood that keeping a watchful eye on the total calorie intake and exercising a few days a week is enough to offset your sedentary time. However, new studies suggest that exercise won't in reality reverse the ill effects of increased sitting hours. What really matters is movement all through the day.  

But, is sitting as bad as it is made out to be?  

Well, there is data that shows that sitting can increase the risk of diabetes by two fold. There is also some association between sitting for long and cardio vascular disease. In fact there may be some association between sitting for long hours and cancer – it could come from the fact that sedentary behaviours increase the risk of some cancers. Constant sitting also comes with back and neck pains 

Now, standing desks at workplaces are becoming popular but studies have indicated that standing can also be detrimental to the body. In fact standing for longer hours can cause problems in the lower back and lower extremities – in the musculoskeletal system. Varicose veins, stiffness in the neck and shoulders are also some problems of prolonged standing. There is some research that shows that standing for long hours at work can double the heart disease risk. 

So, in reality it’s the movement of the body that benefits your health, neither sitting nor standing. Here, are some tips on how to increase the movement during the day: 

  • Stand and walk while making phone calls 

  • Use steps whenever possible instead of the elevator 

  • Take short breaks from sitting every 30-40 minutes. You can use your smartphone to remind you to either walk to drink water, take a bathroom break or do some task away from the desk. 

To conclude, sitting may not be as hazardous as smoking, but there is enough data to point to the negative overall impact of sitting on health. Besides the 150 minutes of weekly exercise, remember to keep moving more and sitting less. Today, on account of the current pandemic, corporate wellness programs are going online. Companies understand that an employee’s wellness is to the company’s benefit.