Is Sitting Really The New Smoking In 2018?

/Is Sitting Really The New Smoking In 2018?
Is Sitting Really The New Smoking In 2018?2018-06-11T12:38:33+00:00

a group of people sitting

We’re inclined to think of ourselves as living in the age of true enlightenment, near-immortal on the back of the technological and medical advances of the last 30 years or so. We forget that in 1910, children with ADHD were being tranquilized with ‘soothing syrups’ made of morphine, codeine, cannabis, and chloroform.

More recently, in the 1940’s, psychiatrists were treating depression and even mild anxiety with a mallet, an ice pick, and a proffered eye-socket. Ever wondered…what the people of 2118 are going to be writing about our medicinal, social and lifestyle practices when they do the research? I’ll ‘break the ice’ with some interesting statistics.

Sitting Disease Statistics:

  • A monstrous 36 percent of adults in the US do not engage in ANY free-time exercise but instead, spend their lifetimes seated.
  • In the US, 7.6 million citizens list back pain as their impetus for claiming disability grants. That’s why back pain is the second most popular reason for claiming disability.
  • 100 million Americans suffer from chronic back pain and the leading cause of back pain is extensive sitting, at work and at home. This side effect of sitting disease alone costs US employers in excess of 230 Billion Dollars annually.
  • You may have heard about the British Journal of Sports Medicine’s finding that every cigarette you smoke diminishes your lifespan by 11 minutes…would you believe us if we told you that every hour you spend seated reduces your lifespan by 22 minutes? ‘We know, that’s massive. Yet, this figure wasn’t pulled out of someone’s ear but arrived at by careful analysis of scores subjects made up of sitters and work time standers.
  • Sitting increases the risk of cardiovascular upsets by 147 percent.
  • Sitting increases the risk of death by cardiovascular event by a full 90 percent.
  • Diabetes risk was increased in sitters by 112 percent.
  • Death by all related causes was increased by a whopping 49 percent.
  • 40 percent of women and 20 percent of men who sit for in excess of 6 hours per day drastically increase their risk of premature death.
  • Now let’s think about the obesity risk: While the mobile worker burns an average of 2300 calories per day, the sitter is lucky if he burns 300 calories. What’s more, as you sit and sit, day in, day out, your metabolism slowly decreases, in other words, you die. With obesity being one of the top 5 leading causes of death on the planet, that’s certainly a scary one too!
  • A 14-year study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, surveyed 123216 individuals, equal parts men and women, to determine the effects of excessive sedentary living over time. The results were shocking, to say the least.The test subjects, all of whom started the study period as healthy individuals, basically proved the theory that sitting all day is deadly.

Is Sitting Really The New Smoking?

Woman having backpainWell…yes! You see, smoking IS being battled tooth and nail, with new innovations like e-cigarettes and vaping stepping up to curb new user statistics and give addicts a healthier and more practical alternative. Also, don’t forget about the fact that smoking has been successfully erased from the advertising space in most countries, and that people are more and more aware of its deadly effects watching smokers die around them.

The person in the street is fully aware that there is nothing but nothing good about smoking whatsoever and that if he does smoke excessively or even just use a cancer stick or two a day, he is putting himself, his arteries, his heart, his lungs, his life at risk.

Excessive sitters, work-time sitters, TV sitters, they just don’t realize the monumental detrimental effect that their take-a-seat lifestyle is having on their chances of living a full and healthy life. People tend to think that excessive sitting just means that they won’t be as toned and photo ready as the guy who’s a career sportsman but this is a superficial and dangerous ignorance of facts and findings.

Sitting IS the new smoking and given the widespread instance of persons confined to an office seat throughout their workday and workday evening, it may actually be a bigger problem than smoking ever was.

Think About This

The word ‘DISEASE’ is defined in the online dictionary as “a particular quality or disposition regarded as adversely affecting a person or group of people; a disorder of structure or function in a human, animal, or plant, especially one that produces specific symptoms or that affects a specific location and is not simply a direct result of physical injury.”

With current, extensive studies to back the claim, this means that SITTING IS A DISEASE.

We pride ourselves and thrive on our society’s ability to have mastered and adapted so quickly to the inordinate efficiency accelerator that is ‘the internet’ however, a side of the internet’s far-reaching awesomeness is the fact that we no longer need to go anywhere to do anything.

I can get documents signed, I can look over the dinner menu for my weekend reservation, I can talk…in person…face to face (on Skype and Facetime), I can shop, work, love and complain all from the apparent comfort of my sitting-work-desk, not realizing that it’s shortening my life and happiness 22 minutes at a time.

Slowly, while I sit, the muscles in my legs are atrophying, my joints stiffen, especially if my office is air conditioner cool. My folded, slouchy back posture is taking its toll on my nervous system.

When I get up, which I usually do because I feel an uncomfortable ache in my legs, pins and needles in my bottom or a back in dire need of a stretch, I struggle to straighten my torso and knees, a problem that will only increase with age.

Sitters take more breaks than standers, partly because your body simply wasn’t made to sit. Just think about that row of evolving hunter-gatherers we often see pictured next to articles on Darwinian evolution. Man evolved from ape to homo-sapiens-erectus. Erectus being the operative word. We evolved because we were on the move, we needed to stand tall.

Yet here we are with bodies made to sport and be active, bodies made to stand, here we are sitting day in and day out, letting the world come to us. Will we pay the price and slowly devolve athletically, mentally, emotionally? Yes, we are already doing so.

The technology which connects us, the convenience of modern life is not going to make us immortal, if we continue to sit, it will kill us.

Wisdom from the Blue Zones

‘Blue Zone’ is a name given to a place or community that records a well above average number of centenarians.

Strangely, people living to inordinately high ages tend to come in clusters and the reasons for this are not necessarily things like altitude above sea level and a specialized diet of healthy foods only…culture has a very great deal to do with it.

Areas like Okinawa, Nicoya and Sardinia display remarkable longevity statistics and the communities which display them are not making the most of what the most current technology has to offer, actually…they’re doing the opposite.

Studies done on blue zones in the world today have resulted in the formulation of comprehensive lists of contributing factors for each known zone. An overriding factor behind the extreme longevity experienced in these communities was constant moderate exercise due to a culture of physical involvement.

Culturally, the elderly in these communities are included in all social and work activity, they garden, they look after the young children, they stand! They end up living an average of 25 years longer than we do.

This practice starts young though because the work that these people do is not necessarily the stressful, time-sensitive business of being actively involved in an internet driven economy, it’s merely a matter of watching the tides, harvesting on time and grinding corn….if you catch my drift.

The people in blue zones avoid cancers, heart disease and diabetes 2.5 times better than we do and they do so without supplementation, high tech medicine and hours at the gym. They move, they move moderately and they move constantly…until the day they die.

Can’t Get Things Done Unless You Stay in One Place?

So your work takes place online, like mine and you simply have no choice other than to stay in one place if you ‘re to have any hope of getting the job done. Don’t be disheartened,  because there are solutions starting to make the rounds as more and more people and workers wake up to these shocking Sitting Disease statistics and realize that sitting really is the new smoking…and much much worse.

With what we know about the role sitting plays in narrowing life expectancy, you could get up from your desk today, start smoking 8 cigarettes a day but become active throughout your normal 8 hour work day  and you’ll actually live longer than you would have if you sat, in spite of the fact that you sat while not smoking.

I’m not telling you to go ahead and smoke, I’m telling you STAND! Standing desks are being introduced into more and more modern workplaces and if you’re an employer or work from home you should pay close attention.

woman with a laptop on s tanding deskAn article published in the Oxford Journal of Public health delineated a study that proved that computer workers who worked at sit/stand, adjustable desks were 78% less likely to complain of muscular and joint pain than those who spend their days sedentary.

Standing desks keep the postural muscles active, day by day increasing muscle stamina and core strength. In other words, the more you stand, the easier it is to stand.

While standing, your circulatory system and blood flow are unobstructed, reaching all extremities and over time, becoming more and more efficient as you recover from your sitting disease.

The idea is not to simply stand all day since that can be detrimental to parts of your body too. The idea is to use a high stool and alternate between sitting and standing throughout the course of your workday, at a desk that will allow you to to do this whilst continuing to efficiently work on your computer.

In fact, standing helps you focus and the more you do it the more benefits you’ll reap for yourself and your employer. That’s because standing at length, off and on throughout the day has all the benefits of exercise on brain function, creativity, and intellectual efficacy. It tones muscles, improves circulation, increases creativity, maximizes intellectual efficacy and drastically improves memory.

Another thing that makes standing desks so much more efficient is the fact that office desks and office chairs, school desks and school chairs, aren’t one size fits all. Short, tall and wide people, every day suffer the consequences of being placed at desks, in chairs that were made for a median body type, five foot ten and mostly lean…unfortunately for the sitters, this is not the physical average in all offices.

Force of Habit

Now, the brave and proud tobacco quitters amongst you should be all too familiar with the feeling of anxiety that made you reach, inevitably for a cigarette during your first attempts at abstaining for prolonged periods. You probably think that the feeling of ‘needing to be seated’ after standing for 20 minutes isn’t a parallel to that at all but, really, it is.

We might actually need to sit because of lumbar pain, deteriorated hip flexors, poor circulation and a host of other physical ailments but…just like the vicious cycle of smoking, it’s what we’ve been doing (sitting) for years that’s led to that ‘need’ and unless we make a change, the need will only be exacerbated.

Our belief in the human need to sit is merely a force of habit, just like cigarette addiction.

Sitting really is the new smoking and far, far worse…because while 20 people in your office of 100 might huddle in the smoker’s room during tea-time, 100 out of 100 of the people in your office are sitting, sitting and sitting, partaking of a habit-forming, vicious cycle inducing practice that increases the risk of developing life-shortening conditions even more than smoking does. Think about this.

In Spite of What You May Have Thought

In spite of the fact that we associate sitting with relaxation, studies performed at Miami University have shown that, in fact, workplace sitters take 47% more breaks daily and the length of those breaks is, on average, 56% greater than in standers.

check your posture


Our bodies are subconsciously trying to fight back, making us restless and agitated, breaking our concentration so that we think we need to get up for a coffee, a snack, fresh air…anything to get our bones out of that desk chair and on the move as we were made to be.

The true cause of restless leg syndrome is as yet, unknown but one thing we do know is that people who sit or recline excessively are far more prone to developing this condition than those who stand. In fact, the jerky leg ‘ticks’ associated with restless leg syndrome are 100% impossible to accomplish whilst standing, so there.


office man having back painAs a sitter, what you’ve read so far may already have given new meaning to the phrase ‘I’m working myself to death.’ The thing is, it’s not just physical misfortunes ailing the billions of ‘lifetime sitters’ out there, metal ailments are just as common side effect of ‘the new smoking.’

A study of 9000 women in Australia, all between the ages of 50 and 55, showed that sitting all day greatly increased their likelihood of developing depression. In fact, those who sit for 7 hours or more at work are about 50% more prone to this life-quality-threatening mental illness than others.

But it’s not just depression we’re talking about here, anxiety, the inability to focus and scores of other emotional and mental problems are a direct result of sitting on our booties all day.

The sad truth of the matter is that sitting all day greatly decreases your hopes of enjoying perfect mental and emotional health. Sitting…makes you unhappy.

Standing desks are a big deal right now and more and more companies are discovering that not only do they drastically increase the fitness and happiness levels of staffers, they actually massively impact productivity, creativity, and tendency for innovation.

Moreover, users report that while they may take a little getting used to, so many negative health symptoms are relieved over time that they and their bodies just know that it’s worth it.

Development of cancers, especially breast and colon cancers, as well as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cardiovascular disease and obesity are things that people live in fear of. People feel better about themselves when they’re doing something, anything, to actively avoid these conditions.

Standing, as opposed to sitting, is one way of actively avoiding them and that, my friends, is how standing desks can make you happy.


a woman and her therapist working on a fitballMost people in their 30’s look back on 20 years and consider it a very, very long span, they consider it a lifetime. Think about the benefits of standing at your desk and consider the 20 years you could add to the end of your life. Think of the past 20 years, think on those people in Sardinia who are active members of the community to ages often above 100 and realize that, if you’re in your 30’s, you could be adding what you now call “a lifetime” onto the end of your span.

If you’re a working 50-year-old who has only been expecting to live another 20 years, based on average life expectancy, do yourself a favor and throw ‘average’ goals in the compost pile where they belong.

It’s never too late to make a change and you certainly shouldn’t be using your current age as an excuse for making your life even shorter. Consider that extra 20 years and think of all the things you could accomplish if you give yourself the ability, the focus, stamina, and efficiency to save a further 10 years for your retirement.

The fact is, the older you are, the more prone you’ll be to developing unpleasant health disorders and conditions as a direct result of sitting on your behind all day. The older you are, the fewer excuses you really have.

In Conclusion

Maybe you were sitting whilst reading this…maybe next time you ‘sit down to read a lengthy post’ you’ll think…and think again.