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Why Sitting Is The New Smoking

The past 12 months have seen me hard at work on some BIG upcoming business projects. I've been pulling way too many long hours including week ends - sitting at my least favourite place - the desk. And although the hard work will hopefully pay off, there has been a price to pay, in that I have been sitting for the best part of my day! I've justified this to myself by saying, "it's just a temporary change in my work habits", "it's not for long", blah blah blah, but the truth is, we can all make excuses like this to ourselves and get caught up in a vicious cycle of 'putting off today 'til tomorrow'.

It appears science has found something even more sinister about our long hours spent sitting. New research from a study conducted at the University of Leicester revealed sitting causes a huge increase in diseases such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and increases stress and every hour of (seated) TV watching we do cuts about 22 minutes from our life span!! That's a lot of life lost if you enjoy your TV!

In fact folks who sit for just two hours a day have a greater chance of developing type 2 diabetes, around a 125% increased risk of cardiovascular disease and associated symptoms such as chest pain (angina) or heart attack and almost a 50% increase in risk of death from any cause. Prolonged sitting combined with a stressful work environment, can increase women's risk of heart attack by as much as 88 %.

Now as alarming as all this may sound, the health problems associated with sitting, come from sitting for extended periods of time. Not good news considering we spend up to 80% or our working day sedentary. If you think about how much of your day is actually spent being stagnant, sitting at your desk at work, or on your couch watching TV, or sitting on the train or bus to work each day, you may be alarmed to discover just how much time you spend sitting for extended periods of time.

It's all too easy to get caught up, sitting for prolonged periods of time, often up to a couple of hours in one stint without moving, because we're either 'too busy' to make time to stand up and move about, or we are simply unconscious of how much time we actually spend each day sitting. The truth is the human body was not actually designed to sit all day long, but rather to stand and move around. It's critical to break up your sitting time throughout the day, because 1 hr at the gym after 8 - 10 hrs sitting, ain't going to counteract the impact of long periods sitting.

The health effects of sitting long term for extended periods of time include -

  • slower metabolic rate

  • obesity

  • poor circulation

  • weakened immunity

  • chronic musculoskeletal pain

  • Sluggish lymphatic flow

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome

  • Diabetes

  • Varicose veins

  • Cancer

  • Cardiovascular Disease

So what's the easiest way we can change this BAD habit?

Less time sitting and more time moving overall is the number one solution, but the key lies in how we can achieve this when so many of us have jobs that demand we sit most of the day. Start by making simple changes such as:

  • Stand rather than sitting whenever you have the chance, stand while talking on the phone

  • Get up from your desk every 20 - 30 minutes even if its just for a 20 - 30 second stretch

  • Try a standing desk — or improvise with a high table or counter

  • Find ways to walk while you work, such as schedule a walk for your business meeting vs sitting over a meal.

  • Use the stairs instead of the lifts at work

  • Use the bathroom, water cStandingooler or kitchen facility the furthest from your desk to ensure you have to walk for longer

  • Now days you can even get treadmill desks — with a computer screen and keyboard on a stand - may sound a little crazy, but this has become all the rage in the States

  • Instead of sitting on a chair, use a fit ball to keep your body moving around and your core engaged - my personal favourite.

  • Park your car further from the train or bus station so you have to walk further ( but only if it is safe to do so)

  • Cycle or walk to work if you live near by.

Even simple movement can have a profound impact on your health vs being stagnant from sitting and the more you move, the more fat you will burn and the faster your metabolic rate.

The muscle activity required for standing and other movement, triggers important processes related to the breakdown of fats and sugars within the body. When you sit, these processes stall — and your health risks increase. Standing or actively moving, will trigger these processes back into action.

So bear all this in mind at work tomorrow and see what little changes you can make that will have a BIG impact on your health over time.

All Rights Reserved Sally Joseph copyright 2013

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