Is Sitting the New Smoking?

Is Sitting the New Smoking?

Sitting Down is Bad for Your Health

Sitting down is terrible for your health – it is no far behind smoking as an overall risk factor.

This is surprising to many people. If you were to do a survey asking people what the biggest risks to life were, you’d have a wide range of answers. You can be sure that major diseases such as cancer and heart disease would be mentioned. That accidents could play a part, and that drink and drugs factor in.

We all know that smoking takes a terrible toll on health. It is unequivocally linked with cancer and a factor in multiple chronic diseases.

New research adds a new health hazard – sitting down.

Recent research show that it should be on the list. Multiple health concerns attributed to sitting down – even if you are fit and healthy in every other way.

Studies and the Science Behind Sitting Down

The first ever link between illness and sitting down came in the 1950s. It emerged that bus drivers in the UK were twice as likely to have heart attacks as their conductor colleagues (a bus conductor was someone who collected tickets and regularly moved between the two floors of a double decker bus). The drivers would be sitting for 90% of their shifts, while the conductors would climb hundreds of stairs a day.

More detailed studies in the US have concluded that people who sit the most in comparison to those who sit the least have:

  • 147% more chance of a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack.
  • 112% more chance of contracting diabetes.
  • 49% increased chance of death in general.

See this Healthcheck page at the NHS for stats and practical advice.

Sitting is Bad for your health

Why Sitting is Dangerous to Your Health

You can see the effects of sitting for prolonged periods above, but why does this happen? First, when sitting your blood flow will naturally slow down. This can lead to heart disease, as fatty acids are more likely to build up in your blood vessels.

Sitting can also lead to insulin resistance which in turn can be the cause of type 2 diabetes and obesity. Both are major risk factors in heart disease.

Sitting can also mean that your body’s ability to process fats is slowed, due to an enzyme that breaks down fat slowing down in production. The fat is instead stored, which is then more likely to lead to heart disease. There is a significantly greater chance of having a blood clot if you are sitting for extended periods of time.

Sitting and Heart disease

Solutions to Prolonged Sitting

In the modern workplace, sitting can be inevitable at times. However, there are a variety of ways in which you can make changes that can benefit your health.

  • Standing Desks: This is no real reason why your workstation must be a seated one. Many modern offices now allow for a standing desk, where you simply spend your workday standing up as opposed to sitting. Even standing for an hour a day instead of an entire day seated can make a significant difference to your health. Studies have shown that creativity and brain function can increase when standing. Walking desks are an extension of this, where you have a treadmill moving at a slow pace where you would normally stand.
  • Taking a Break: If you are working in an environment where seated desks are the only options, take a regular break where you can stretch your legs. It can be an idea to set an hourly timer on your phone, where you get the chance to stretch your legs and have a wander for a couple of minutes.
  • Working Out: You could consider working out on your lunch break if you are seated all day. If this isn’t possible, park your car a little further from your workplace or get off the bus one stop early, so you have more exercise in the morning. Cycling to work can be a great option to boost your fitness and counter the extended time you will spend sitting down. Any extra exercise can be highly beneficial.

Working Out!

  • Under Desk Exercisers: If you struggle to find time to enact any of the above, you could invest in an under desk exercise bike. These small pieces of gym equipment keep your legs moving while you are sat working and can be an ideal way of alleviating any sitting problems.
  • Take the Stairs: If you are at a job where you must move from floor to floor occasionally, taking the stairs instead of the elevator can be a great boost.
  • Communication: There can be a tendency to communicate electronically with colleagues, even in the same office space. Getting up and speaking to that colleague in person will help and save on those many emails going back and forth.

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