Is sitting the new smoking?


Today’s typical lifestyle includes long commutes, continuous hours spent chained to a work desk, and the repetitive habit of lazing in front of the television – all adding up to being as bad, if not worse, for our health as smoking.

Add in the pandemic, where more and more people are working from home, stuck behind computer screens every day and we have not only the COVID crisis but a health and wellbeing crisis as well.

Studies indicate that even if people incorporate vigorous and regular exercise such as running and weight training after sitting for long periods of time, they can still experience the adverse effects of being sedentary for lengthy durations. Just like smoking, sitting for more than six hours a day alarmingly raises your risk of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.

So how long is too long?

Most of us are spending eight to fifteen hours sitting on a daily basis!

The World Health Organisation recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of exercise per week in order to maintain optimum health levels. What’s important to keep in mind is that any long periods of time seated tend to negate the positive effects of any exercise you partake in. The key is to achieve a balance where exercise becomes integral to your daily activities.

Impact & outcomes

Just like smoking, sitting for too long is very bad for you and it affects your health in the following ways:

1. Increased risk of type 2 diabetes
Tobacco causes an increase in sugar levels and insulin resistance leading to the onset of diabetes. Similarly, sitting for extended periods of time has been found to increased sugar levels in the body, raising the risks of becoming obese.

2. Heart disease
A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology shows that men who sit for more than six hours a day increase their risk of dying from heart disease by 18%.

3. Cancer
The Journal of the National Cancer Institute tested more than four million people to discover whether sitting increased the risk for cancer. The study showed that even where the individuals were physically active, the risk of getting cancer increased for every two hours they spent seated!

It’s not always possible to avoid sitting for long periods of time, especially if your job involves using a desk and a computer. But all is not lost! You can still take measures to prevent and combat the adverse effects of being sedentary:

Perform simple stretches and exercises at your desk. You can find some practical options here:

Get up! Take a walk around the office every couple of hours or so – and encourage your colleagues to do the same. A great opportunity to catch up on work conversations while implementing some exercise!

Tried a stability ball before? Using one is an excellent way of engaging your core muscles to keep them conditioned and in top shape.

By using these easy strategies, you can effectively reduce the health risks of sitting for long periods of time. Remember, it’s as simple as turning sitting into standing and standing into steps.