Is Sitting the New Smoking?

Fitness // Fit Tim // 14 March 2016

More and more studies are finding that sitting can be harmful to you in many ways – from trouble losing weight, to many health problems including heart disease. 12WBT Fitness Guru Fit Tim shares his views on sitting vs. standing in this blog post.

The sitting vs. standing debate seems to be one of the hottest health topics right now! There are several studies that link sitting and mortality. This study in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine found people who sit for long periods are 24 percent more likely to die from health problems, compared with people who sat less. Pretty high numbers if you ask me. Even though we may be looking to scorn sitting and throw it into the ‘as bad as smoking’ category, I agree with this counter study that concludes it is your overall activity that counts.

Published in the International Journal of Epidemiology in October 2015, the study states “Don’t beat yourself up about how you have to spend 8 hours a day or more glued to your desk, and don’t rush out and buy a standing desk if you’d really just prefer to sit.  Instead, make the commitment to walk more every day to keep your energy expenditure levels up. Because one thing’s for sure – it’ll be a whole lot better for you than sitting around stressing about what you can’t change.” 

Of course, a combination of sitting and standing throughout the day is better than either sitting or standing all day but it is not a ‘hall pass’ to do no other exercise. When likening sitting to smoking, I say that smoking is a lot more unhealthy and intense as cigarettes have over 400 carcinogens in each puff – think about that!

Most research that’s been done has actually focused on the sit/stand combination. Studies don’t claim that’s it actually better to stand for your entire work day, as that can result in fatigue and bad posture, too. From my own research and experience I’ve found that the optimal formula is to get up and stretch for 2-3 minutes for every hour you are sitting. So set an alarm on your phone and get up and move around. Just a few simple stretches can make the world of difference.

At 12WBT HQ we do 3pm stretches for five minutes every Monday, and it’s something that everyone looks forward to – plus it replaces the needs for the afternoon pick-me-up of sugar and/or caffeine.

In short, don’t quit your desk job, instead look for opportunities to move throughout the day.

Six Ways to Get Moving

  1. Get up and get going! Take the long way to the photocopier, colleagues desk or restroom.
  2. Take the stairs (at least a few flights) whenever you can. Set yourself a daily target!
  3. Have walking meetings and get your daily does of Vitamin D too. Remember the sunscreen.
  4. Stand or walk when using the phone.
  5. Get off a train or bus station a few stops early to give yourself another 5-10 minutes of walking time. Every little bit helps.
  6. Work out how to fit in exercise into your new daily routine here


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