THE NEGATIVE IMPACTS OF SITTING – Why Sitting is the New Smoking and How to Quit

The human body was designed to move. The body’s mechanics allow locomotion; we are meant to walk, stand, climb, and run. However, our jobs have made us submissive to sitting. It is estimated that an average desk-worker sits for more than half of their waking hours. The consequences of sedentary work include weight gain (due to less energy expended and less calories burned), and higher rates of diabetes and heart disease as compared to counterparts with more physical jobs. This is where the phrase “Sitting is the New Smoking” comes from. A “sitting lifestyle” is literally taking years off our clock!

So why is sitting the new smoking? An Australian study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine from October 2012 found that every hour participants spent sitting in front of the television reduced their lifespan by approximately 22 minutes, as compared to smokers, whose lifespan was reduced by 11 minutes per cigarette.

So is the problem simply inactivity? Though inactivity causes a reduction in the number of calories burnt, this type of inactivity leads to suppression of the enzyme lipoprotein lipase, which is essential for converting bad cholesterol (LDL) into good cholesterol (HDL). Prolonged sitting can also cause insulin resistance that leads to changes in the body’s ability to metabolize sugar. All of this can contribute to the development of heart disease and diabetes.

In addition to these negative health effects, sitting jobs can also wreak havoc on the musculoskeletal system. Prolonged sitting work can be a contributing factor to a number of common repetitive strain injuries that include neck pain, headaches, lower back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, elbow pain, and sciatica.

Here are some simple steps to stay active and healthy at a sitting job:

  1. Keep your daily snacks in the office kitchen so you are forced to get up and move around.
  2. Keep a large bottle of water at your desk at all times and drink regularly. This will encourage you to stay hydrated and take regular restroom breaks that will get you out of your chair.
  3. On your lunch break, instead of going to the cafeteria and sitting for the duration of your break, go for a walk or run errands that are walking-distance away from the office.
  4. If you commute by subway or bus, get off a stop or two before your destination and walk. If you drive, when the weather permits, park as far away from the entrance as possible.
  5. Avoid sending emails to colleagues who work in your office. Instead, walk yourself over to their desks to relay important messages or drop off hand-written notes at their cubicles.
  6. Try standing when taking phone calls or conducting meetings.
  7. Go for a workout on your lunch break!
  8. Use a Swiss ball as your office chair. This encourages more muscle activation and engagement than a traditional chair.
  9. Speak to your boss or the Human Resources department about getting a stand-to-sit desk. This alternative to a traditional desk can help create a healthier work-station.
  10. Change positions every 30 minutes. Remaining in a static position for too long can stress your spine. Movement is KEY to minimizing postural fatigue and discomfort.


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