You may have recently heard the phrase, “Sitting is the new smoking” and thought to yourself, “really, sitting is as bad as smoking”?
It has become common knowledge that smoking is terrible for your health. In fact, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), smoking is becoming one of the biggest public health threats our world has ever seen. WHO also claims that tobacco kills up to half of its users totaling around 6 million a year. That is bad! How could sitting possibly equate to smoking?
According to Dr. James A Levine, director of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative and inventor of the treadmill desk, it does equate to smoking and we need to know about it.
Dr. James A Levine has been studying the adverse effects of long term sitting for years and the research is astonishing. In a comparison between adults who spent less than two hours a day sitting and watching some form of entertainment and adults who spent more than four, the latter had a nearly 50 percent increased risk of death due to any cause as well as a 125 percent increased risk of heath concerns related specifically to the heart (e.g. chest pain or heart attack). This increased risk is separate from other traditional risk factors associated with heart disease such as high blood pressure and smoking.
Another study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology reported that individuals who sat for six or more hours a day had higher mortality rates when compared to individuals who sat for three hours or less a day. It also claimed that physical activity and exercise were irrelevant to the correlation between time spent sitting and mortality rate. In other words, vigorously working out for 2 hours does not negate the harmful effects of sitting for a 6-hour duration.
So why is siting so detrimental for your health? Levine states that when you stand or move, you activate certain muscles. These muscles then initiate the metabolic process or the breaking down of fat and sugar in the body. When the body is sedentary, however, these processes stall and the risk of health issues increases.
This is terrible news for the average American who spends the majority of their day at a desk job with a quick 15-minute break every 4 hours. Here are some helpful tips from Dr. Levine that you can implement in today’s work environment:
1. Stand or walk while talking on the phone
2. Purchase a standing desk
3. Walk laps with colleagues instead of meeting around a table.
Something that I have found to be personally very helpful is a mobile action tracker such as a Fitbit or apple watch. These devices can monitor your activity and keep you accountable to your walking standing or exercise goals for 2017.
So the next time you find yourself binge-watching on Netflix or caught up knee-deep in work, take a moment to breathe, stretch, and move your legs. Small steps in any direction can add up to profound changes for your health.