Is Sitting the New Smoking?

Is Sitting the New Smoking?

A recent article published by the Harvard Business Review equates sitting with smoking in terms of long term risks to health and well being. Considering all we know now about the dangers of tobacco use, this seems like an extreme claim to make. However, with many spending their days working at sedentary jobs and their nights on the couch, you can see how the hours add up. Combine that with what we know about how excess weight and lack of exercise can affect the body and you can see how all the time spent in a chair can start to take a serious toll.

People spend an average of 9.3 hours per day sitting, which is even more than we spend sleeping. This includes time in front of computers, working at desks, in meetings, and leisure time at home. Extensive research has been done on the effects this has on the body. After just one hour, the enzymes that burn fat decline significantly, increasing the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes and associated degenerative diseases, like arthritis. Study after study has also shown that a lack of daily movement also increases the risk colon cancer and breast cancer, as well as cardiovascular disease and heart attack.

 When taken all together, time spent in a chair does stack up as just as dangerous as smoking.

For many people, their occupation may make it difficult to change the amount of time spent in front of computers. That’s why it’s important to make decisions about how to spend your time outside of work to counteract all the daytime inactivity. Walks after dinner or recreational sports on the weekends may be a perfect fit for some. Others might find it possible to take standing breaks during the day, or even construct a standing desk. Even small changes can make a big difference.

For a long time, tobacco use has been touted as one of the most dangerous bad habits, and many people have quit knowing the dangers. It doesn’t seem likely, though, that as many people would be willing to give up their couches and chairs. If presented with the data and statistics tabulating the risks of spending time at a desk or in front of the television, though, people would be surprised to learn that the health dangers are as significant as lighting up.


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