Sitting is the New Smoking


In school, we sit at our desks most of the day. At work, we sit at our desks and stare at the computer screen most of the day. Many of us also sit in our cars and drive them everywhere they need to go. Then, after a long day we get home and continue our sitting regiment at our computer or on the couch to watch television. It’s a tough cycle to break because school and most jobs essentially require us to sit for long periods of time.

New research is now finding that this sedentary lifestyle is contrary to our biological needs and destructive to our overall well-being. The human body has evolved to is biologically designed to be mobile, not sedentary. In Silicon Valley and across the developed world, sitting is rapidly becoming the new smoking. In fact, we sit an average of 9.3 hours a day, more than we spend sleeping. Scientists believe that anyone sitting more than 6 hours a day is at a heighten risk of developers problems and this much sitting may be as bad as smoking a pack of cigarettes everyday.

Some studies are even finding that if you regularly sit for long periods of time at work, this habit will take years off your life

“Sitting is so incredibly prevalent that we don’t even question how much we’re doing it. And because everyone else is doing it, it doesn’t even occur to us that it’s not OK.” – Nilofer Merchant at TED 2013

Exercise is the Cure

While there are a number of studies that link a sedentary lifestyle with health risks and death, there is also evidence that the risks are virtually eliminated by individuals with moderate to vigorous exercise. While early studies indicated risks for sedentary individuals that did exercise newer studies disagree.

Researchers from the University of Exeter, in England, believe that those studies were flawed and that active individuals who also sit a lot may not face a greater risk of early death, after all.

The Exeter researchers conducted their own study, featuring 3,720 men and 1,412 women, aged 35–55, all employees of the British Civil Service in London. Over nearly 16 years, these participants completed questionnaires about occupational and leisure-time sitting behaviors and underwent clinical examinations. The researchers used five sitting categories: work sitting, TV viewing time, non-TV leisure-time sitting, total leisure-time sitting and total sitting time. Other variables that were monitored included moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA); body weight and body mass index (BMI); nutrition and alcohol intake; and more.

During the study, 450 people died. But the researchers could not determine a link between these deaths and any of the five sitting categories.

“The present study tested the hypothesis that sitting time would predict mortality risk independently of MVPA and [that] associations would vary by type of sitting,” the authors stated. “Across almost 16 years of follow-up, no prospective associations were observed between five different indicators of sitting

The study is printed in the International Journal of Epidemiology (2015; doi: 10.1093/ije/dyv191).

The bottom line you can offset the risks inherent in sitting activities with regular exercise so get out of the chair and into the gym.