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Why Sitting Is Considered the New Smoking

Sitting is the new smoking
Foto: CC0/ Unsplash/ Renè Müller

Sedentary lifestyles are a growing health epidemic in the US. Keep reading to find out why sitting too much is being labeled the new smoking.

For many of us, our lives are designed around everyday activities that include no physical exertion, such as watching TV, using a computer, reading, studying and traveling by car. In recent decades, leisure time activities have become increasingly sedentary. Most people prefer to sit on the couch with snacks and watch a sports game, rather than go out and play the sport themselves. 

We spend a lot of our work time sat down, too. A 2017 study by the American Heart Association has found that sedentary jobs have increased by 83 percent since 1950, and that employees in office jobs spend more than 89 percent of their workday sitting. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to increasing this trend: Many people now work from home, so they don’t even need to leave their couch or bed in order to work. Tip: Try a digital detox to reduce the amount of sedentary screen time you have. Sitting is often called the new smoking, because it can seriously impact your health over time. We’ll explain how later on in the text.

Do We Sit More Than Previous Generations?

The American Heart Association contends that ‘physically active jobs now make up less than 20 percent of the US workforce, down from roughly half of jobs in 1960’. This shows how compared to older generations, most Americans no longer work jobs that require them to be active. The population is increasingly becoming less active, with a 2019 study showing that the amount of time Americans spend sitting down has increased by an hour a day between 2001 and 2016. Here are some facts from The Heart Foundation to illustrate this:

  • Over 25 percent of American adults sit for more than 8 hours every day.
  • 44 percent of those people get little to no exercise.
  • The average American is active less than 20 minutes every day, 60-75 minutes of moderate activity (steady walking) can counter the effects of too much sitting.

Is Sitting the New Smoking? The Dangers of Sitting Too Much

The risk of both anxiety and depression is higher in those who sit more.
The risk of both anxiety and depression is higher in those who sit more.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / Foundry)

Sitting is being labeled the new smoking because of the many negative health consequences it has. The human body is not designed to be sat still. There are short- and long-term health effects that come from sitting down too much. 

  • A study by the World Health Organisation has shown that 3.2 million deaths each year are attributed to insufficient physical activity. 
  • Sitting down too much may increase your risk of chronic health problems such as cardiovascular disease, heart disease and stroke, as your body cannot remove the lipids in the fat from your blood after eating a meal.
  • It may also increase your risk of diabetes. If you sit too much, your body may have trouble disposing of the glucose in the food you eat, so it could accumulate in your blood. 
  • Sitting too much can also be bad for your mental health. According to a 2021 study by the University of Milan, spending more than eight hours a day sitting during the pandemic – even with 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity during the week – was associated with increased risk for depression, anxiety and chronic stress.

Why Sitting Is Considered the New Smoking: the Health Impacts

Running is a great form of cardio to keep your body active.
Running is a great form of cardio to keep your body active.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / StockSnap)

Living a more active lifestyle will make you happier and healthier. By introducing more activity into everyday life, you can reverse damaging the trends that have labeled sitting as the new smoking. There are lots of benefits to being more active. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends adults should spend at least 150 minutes doing moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week. Here are a few tips to get you started: 

  • Build more activity into your day by walking and cycling rather than driving. Have a goal of 10,000 steps a day. 
  • Use the stairs rather than the elevator or lift. 
  • If you are taking public transport, stand rather than sit, and get off a few stops early so you can walk for longer. 
  • Spend more time doing activities in the house that involve being active, such as gardening. Tip: Using plant species that grow naturally in your area (native gardening) will provide food and shelter for local wildlife.
  • Find a new form of exercise that you enjoy and practice it for 30 minutes a day. This could be running, cycling, swimming, going to the gym or taking part in an exercise class. 

Can Sitting Time Be Avoided Even if the Job Ties You to a Desk?

Sitting can be avoided in the workplace by using a standing desk.
Sitting can be avoided in the workplace by using a standing desk.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / reallywellmadedesks)

For those who work sedentary office jobs, it can seem a challenge to live a more active lifestyle. Even if you work a job that requires you to be sat down, there are plenty of ways that you can add more activity into your workday. Here are some ideas to get you started: 

  • Take frequent breaks to stand up and walk around whilst you are working.
  • Cycle or walk to work if you can.
  • Go for a walk in your lunch break, or do some exercise, such as going to the gym. 
  • If you do take public transport, get off a few stops earlier so you can walk further.
  • Consider a standing desk at work.
  • Walk over to talk to colleagues rather than emailing them.
  • During phone calls, stand up and walk around. 

Read on: 

Important Information regarding Health-related Topics.

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