It’s a tagline touted by health resources and media outlets alike, but is sitting really the “new smoking”?
The knowledge economy and automation have brought desk jobs to more people. Americans have longer commutes and work longer hours than ever before, which means more time at a desk and less time for everything else.
While there is plenty of evidence that sitting too much is detrimental to health, studies show that comparing it to the risks of smoking tobacco may hide the real issues.
Is Sitting Actually as Bad as Smoking?
Smoking tobacco and choosing to live a sedentary lifestyle both often thought of as “lifestyle choices”, but do they actually have comparable risk profiles?
Smoking tobacco is the leading preventable cause of death in the US. Cigarette users have an increased risk of developing certain health conditions and diseases. These health conditions include:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Lung cancer
- Other types of cancer
- Type 2 diabetes
- Decreased fertility
- Decreased bone health
Similar to smoking, sitting too much and living a sedentary lifestyle have a negative effect on your overall health. Only 21 percent of adults are meeting the requirements for daily physical activity.
Like smoking, frequent inactivity puts you at an increased risk of developing serious health conditions, including:
- Metabolic syndrome, which includes elevated blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol, and excess abdominal fat
- Type II diabetes
- Certain types of cancer
- Cardiovascular disease
- Lower life expectancy
Although both are detrimental to overall health, the risks of sitting aren’t nearly as high as those associated with smoking. The good news is that smoking is on the decline, but, unfortunately, sedentary lifestyles are on the rise.
More to Blame Than Just Sitting?
Unlike smoking, the risks associated with sitting may not be caused by sitting alone, but by several factors.
A sedentary lifestyle can also lead to higher levels of stress. Consider someone with a high-pressure desk job. Not only do they spend several hours sitting, but they may also experience constant levels of stress. They may also make poor dietary choices, exercise less and their sleep may suffer.
Reduce Your Risk with Lifestyle Changes
Moving more frequently and reducing stress are two keys to better health. Exercise lowers the risks of sedentary lifestyles, and it’s possible to reduce health risks by getting 60 minutes of exercise every day.
Here are some ways to add more movement to your daily routine:
- Spend five minutes stretching when waking up or going to bed.
- Walk to a favorite restaurant for lunch.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Meet up with friends or relatives for a walk on weekends.
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Sitting doesn’t have to be the new smoking – implementing small lifestyle changes can make a big difference in your overall health!