Sitting is the New Smoking: How to Reduce Your Risk
We know that heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer are the top diseases threatening our health—and that eating well, getting enough exercise, and reducing stress are powerful habits for prevention. But there’s one disease risk-increasing lifestyle habit almost everyone does too much: sitting. Many researchers have determined that sitting is the new smoking—and, in fact, it may be more dangerous.
So, what can we do? Let’s look at why sitting is a risk and what we can do to combat that risk.
The Negative Effects of Sitting Too Long
Americans spend an average of 16 of their waking hours sitting down—at work, in the car, watching TV, etc. When you include time sleeping, that’s about 21 hours either sitting or lying down.
Our bodies are not meant to be this sedentary. And this pattern is taking a toll on our health.
Sitting Increases the Risk of Disease
“Sitting is the new smoking” because it’s been correlated with many of the same diseases as smoking—a habit everyone knows is bad for you. A study from the American Cancer Society found a link between sitting for long periods and an increase risk of death from all causes . That includes the following conditions.
A 2015 study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention analyzing information from 77,462 women found those who spend six or more hours of their free time sitting per day have a 10% higher risk of any cancer than women who spend less than three hours of that time sitting each day .
Certain types of cancer were more likely. Sitting six or more hours of free time per day, compared to three or less hours per day, was linked to:
- 65% greater risk for multiple myeloma
- 43% greater risk for ovarian cancer
- 10% greater risk for invasive breast cancer
Type 2 Diabetes
Standing, walking, and moving less has been shown to make our bodies worse at metabolizing fats and sugars:
- Prolonged sitting has been shown to raise blood glucose levels and may alter body fat distribution, increasing fat around the midsection (which is linked to greater diabetes risk).
- Other research has found a connection between sitting for long periods and a decreased ability to regulate blood glucose .
In addition, sitting for long periods of time may result in higher triglycerides . High triglycerides levels are also an increased risk of diabetes.
Heart disease is the number one cause of death for people in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control—and prolonged sitting isn’t helping.
A 2011 study involving 800,000 people from Loughborough University and the University of Leicester found participants who sat the most had a 147% increase in cardiovascular-related events (such as stroke, heart attack, and heart disease) and a 90% increase in death caused by those events .
Plus, a Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study performed by the National Institutes of Health had similar findings: After eight years of following over 93,000 women between the ages of 50 to 79, the researchers found women who sat over 10 hours each day had a significantly higher risk of cardiovascular events than women who sat five or less hours per day .
And the results were even worse if the most sedentary women didn’t exercise at all!
Bad Sitting Posture Leads to Back and Neck Pain
Sitting too much every day has more immediate consequences, as well. Neck and upper or lower back pain are extremely common these days—no thanks to our modern work habits.
Many people have desk jobs that keep them sitting in a chair, hunched over a laptop or desktop computer, much of the day. And research has shown when you sit, you put 40-90% more stress on your back versus when you’re standing.
Your head weighs an average of 10 pounds. That’s a lot of extra pressure on your neck and upper back when it spends so much time sitting with it tipped forward over your computer (or smartphone).
Sitting is the New Smoking: What Can We Do?
Clearly, the harm of sitting too long is significant. Thankfully, there are steps we can all take to ameliorate the problem.
Take Regular Breaks from Sitting
Try to stand up at least every 30 minutes throughout the day, even if it’s just for a few minutes. If you can walk around for a few minutes, even better.
Set a timer on your phone to remind you to take the standing/walking break.
(Fun fact: You burn an average of 50 more calories per hour when you’re standing versus sitting! That really adds up over time.)
Get a Standing Desk
More workplaces are implementing healthful changes to the routine work day. Standing desks are a good example, as they allow you to work your leg and back muscle and burn more calories as long as you want, right at your desk.
Practice Good Posture at Your Desk
Most people slouch when sitting at work. Try to practice good posture even when at your desk:
- Keep your shoulders down and back and your chest out.
- Pull your chin back slightly so your head is right over your shoulders and not craning forward.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together.
- Try to keep your computer screen in line with your eyes, below them.
Obviously, regular workouts will help keep you more active and prevent a sedentary lifestyle. But still, many people struggle to make exercise a priority.
One problem is that most of us are so busy, working long hours. It can be hard to justify time at the gym—especially if you have to spend time changing into a gym-appropriate outfit, driving to the gym itself, putting your bag away, and deciding what workout equipment to use.
Fortunately, there are more convenient options that better fit the modern “on-the-go” lifestyle. Gorilla Bow was created for convenience. It can be used at home, on the road, or even in the office. You can even use it for short spurts of movement during your standing breaks at work!
The more you can do to move throughout your day, even a little at a time, the better. You’ll burn calories, work important muscles, and help combat the deadly risks of sitting for too long.