Is Sitting Down The New Smoking – It Could Be

Is sitting down the new smoking? It could be if you are sitting down too much. Sitting could be harming your health and increasing your risk for diseases like Cancer, diabetes, and dementia.Is Sitting Down The New Smoking?

In the world we live in where there is not that much need to be active to survive, it’s smart to be proactive and stay active no matter what age.

How much of your waking hours do you sit? It is easy today with TV, Movies, office work, or commuting. The evidence is mounting each day that on average that as a society we all sit too much. In a study that was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, it stated that on average we sit over 50% of our waking hours.

You don’t need to be an Olympian.

Sitting Down Too Much Can Cause Early Death

Estimates say lack of physical activity and sitting down a lot has become a contributor to disease and shortening of life expectancy similar to smoking tobacco or obesity.  Smoking and Obesity causes 1 in 10 deaths.  A study written about in the Lancet states that we have a passive attitude about exercise. Doctors actually prescribe bed rest to patients far more than they prescribe exercise!

Exercise is viewed as a personal choice and is reminiscent of the battles still being fought over smoking.

Early Death: What sitting does to your Brainis sittind down the new smoking

It’s important to get up out of your chair and move about. If you don’t you may be setting yourself up for dementia and/or depression. If you sit too long, everything slows down. On the flip side, moving about pumps blood through the brain and supplying life-giving oxygen to brain cells. When this happens, it triggers your brain to release endorphins. 

Endorphins are neurotransmitters and your bodies own pain relieving chemical that is similar to Morphine. You may have heard the term “runners high”.

There are also other neurotransmitters that are released that are involved in a whole range of brain functions such as analgesia or pain relief. There is the reward, food intake, metabolism, reproduction, social behaviors and learning and memory that are controlled and affected by neurotransmitters.

Are you sitting too much each day?  If you are it may be advantageous to consider some regular activity to get your blood moving and pumping through your brain so you can get those “feel good” chemicals and ward off depression and dementia.

Early Death: What sitting does to your Heart

It make sense that if you are sitting a lot every day, you have slowed circulation throughout your body and your muscles burn less fat. Your blood flows through your heart slow and fat can easily clog your heart arteries and plaque builds up. You also have a chance of that plaque breaking off and traveling to your brain causing a stroke.

It was shown in a study out of 7744 men, those who sat more than 10 hours per week had a 82% higher risk of dying from heart disease.

Less active, less fit persons have a 30 to 50 % greater risk of developing high blood pressure. It ranks similarly is sitting down the new smokingto cigarette smoking. According to the Department of Health of New York State approximately 35% of coronary artery disease deaths are due to physical inactivity.

Early Death: What Sitting Soes To Your Circulation

If you are sitting a lot your blood is slow to circulate and blood can pool. Your legs and ankles and feet can swell. You can also have varicose veins or more dangerous deep vein clots called DVT or deep vein thrombosis.

In one study it was found that those women who were inactive had a higher chance of blood clots forming than those women who were more active. The blood clotted easier in those who were not active. These clots could travel and block blood flow to major organs. However, as soon as the women became more active their risk of blood clots declined sharply.

Early Death: What Sitting Does To Your Bones

If you are sitting for instance at a computer all day, bending forward looking at the screen and typing on the keyboard you are at a high risk for damage to the cervical vertebrae causing at the very least an imbalance. Also if you cradle the pis sitting down the new smokinghone as you are working on the computer it is adding to the risk.

Those who sit a lot are at higher risk for herniated lumbar disks. There is a muscle that travels through the abdominal cavity called the Psoas muscle. The Psoas muscle can shorten and it then pulls the body forward where you are sitting on the ischial tuberosity instead of distributing the weight along the arch of the spine.

It is important to do weight-bearing exercise as we age to stop muscle loss but it is also important for our bones. It has been shown that physical training of 30 minutes a day 3 times a week can increase bone mass. It does not matter how old you are to have the benefit of increased activity.

Early Death: What sitting Does To Your Pancreas

Your Pancreas produces insulin the hormone that carries glucose into cells.  Activity helps the pancreas function at more optimal levels. Exercise has a prominent place in the treatment of diabetes along with diet and insulin.

Obesity may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer but it was shown that as little as 90 minutes of moderate physical activity each week can reduce that risk considerably.

A study in 2011 found that after just one day of prolonged sitting, there was a 22% higher risk of developing Type II Diabetes.

Early Death: What Sitting Does To Your Hips

Hip mobility can decrease when sitting too much. Studies have found that decreased hip mobility is the main reason that elderly people tend to fall. Those who are sitting too much are not stretching the hip flexors causing them to shorten and tighten. This limits range of motion and stride length.

Another problem with your hips if you sit a lot you may have anterior pelvic tilt which means that your hips are rotated forward. Someone with anterior pelvic tilt may appear with a belly pooch and their glutes pointed back. Strengthening the hamstrings, glutes and abdominal muscles and obliques will correct anterior pelvic tilt.

 Counteract The Negative Effects Of Sitting Too Much

I bet you already know the answer: sit less and move around more! An easy way to start is taking the opportunity to stand when youis sitting down the new smoking can. Movement no matter how leisurely can be profound.

A home treadmill would be a great addition to your home or apartment. The home treadmills today can fold up. Walking is a great way to be active.

As soon as you are moving around your bodily processes begin to increase and function better. You not only feel better because of it, but you reverse the negative effects of sitting too long.

If it is safe for you, I would encourage you to do some cardiovascular activities that will increase your heart rate and increase the blood flow to your brain and body.

Engage in any physical activity that gets you up and moving around. Making healthy choices at any age is beneficial to your overall well being. Always consult your doctor before beginning any new exercise program.

Final Thoughts on Sitting Too Much

Sitting too much on a daily basis can be harmful to your overall health. It, in fact, is just like smoking. It causes the same problems! Physical inactivity contributes to a myriad of physical ailments a few of which I mentioned here. The decreased blood flow to your brain can cause depression and contribute to dementia. Your heart suffers and you become high risk for high blood pressure, stroke and disease.

Is sitting down the new smoking? The studies show that lack of physical activity is as bad for your health as smoking.

What do you think? Do you have a question? Please leave me a comment.







This article has 10 Comments

  1. I’ve been hearing more and more that sitting is the new smoking, however, I honestly struggle with how to handle this: as a student I sit; at work I sit to earn a living; and driving is sedentary, too (another way I earn money). What am I to do about this when daily modern life has evolved to sitting much of the time? Any suggestions? I have to make money and physical activity (aside from the pet sitting I do sometimes) doesn’t pay my bills. I appreciate your response! ~ Tam

    1. Hi Tam,

      Thanks so much for your comment. You are not alone with your struggle with sitting a lot. It is definitely a struggle in today’s world. When you have to make a living sitting, going to school and driving, it can be a challenge to get some physical activity in.

      My suggestion is to start with small changes. Stand when you have the opportunity to. In between sitting in class or at your job, make an effort to walk briskly, do a set of jumping jacks or just do some stretches. Also, while you are at work, you can do desk pushups, leg raises, cross leg spine twists, doorway stretches, chair dips, etc. Always take the stairs when you can. I always do my ab workout everyday. It only takes minutes.

      I like interval training but any exercise class you can fit in would be beneficial. Just 30 – 45 minutes of brisk walking three times a week or an exercise class would boost your metabolism and make you feel really good. You mentioned you dog sit sometimes. Playing with the dog sounds like a fun activity also.

      Good luck to you and please let me know how you are doing with becoming more active.

  2. Hi, this is true. Sitting for long hours does affect my lower back and leg muscles. I also have to sit a lot because of university. I understand all those people who have no choice. However, as Cynthia said before, we have to be creative and incorporate exercises in the gaps that we have during our day. For example, for days where I am going to be sitting for too long I wake up earlier and do some muscular activation exercises ( push-ups, sit ups, squats, some planks, etc) in the morning before going to university. This keeps my muscles activated for the rest of the day and the blood flowing even when I am sitting. It has made a big difference. Before, when I didn’t do this my back would be aching during the day and my legs would be very cold.

    1. Hi Daniel,

      Thanks so much for your comment. Yes, waking up early to do some exercises is a wonderful option when you know you will be sitting a lot that day.

      I applaud you doing that. The push-ups, sit ups, squats, and planks (my favorite) can be done in a short amount of time. You not only keep your muscles activated and your metabolism running faster, but you are also sculpting your body. Keep up the good work!

  3. Hi Cynthia,

    That’s a very insightful article on sitting too long. i kinda had the idea that it was just just bad being inactive but all those other issues that could arise is an eye opener for me.

    I deal with blood sugar issues (I really don’t want to say that “D” word lol) and exercise or lots of activity had always been told to be by my doctor. This article does remind me that I should get up and do something to get my blood pumping 🙂

    1. Hi Outer Beauty,

      Thanks so much for your comment. I am glad if I have prompted you to get more active. That was my goal in writing this article. I hope you do begin a daily effort to be more active.

      Being more active doesn’t have to be hard. Just start with small changes. You could start a walking program for a few minutes a day. It will begin to help with your blood sugar as your blood circulates better.

      Good luck to you and please let me know how you are doing.

  4. Hello there,
    I used to be active pretty much every day. Either I went out running, playing basketball or other sports. That all ended about 2 years ago when I started my university. I still do some sports here and there but never like I used to. The feeling you get after you come back from a run is amazing as well. The feeling that you’ve done something for your body just results in you feeling better. I just need to get back into the rhythm again. Do you do your sport activities daily?

    1. Hi Dejan,

      Thanks for your comment. I hope you can manage to fit some type of activity into your schedule on a daily basis again. I love that feeling after a workout too.

      I do work out everyday. I am at the gym 3 – 4 times a week and when I am there I do make the most of it. For instance, today I did one hour of low impact Cardio, then a one hour step class (higher impact), then I did one hour of body pump. On other days, I do Barre, Zumba and Grit. When at home, I walk in the neighborhood 2 – miles and do core work.

  5. Hey, first of all thanks for this great, interesting and very informative article on the unhealthy factors of sitting down. I actually have heard of something similar before, but I didn’t know that it had so many health risks. I heard that one great thing is to buy a standing desk and work at that one.

    1. Hi Los,

      Thanks for your comment. 

      Yes, unfortunately, the fact is that sitting too much is a great health risk. I am always encouraging my family and friends who I know is mostly sedentary, to get up and out and move around some.

      Yes, I agree with you, a standing desk at home and at work is a wonderful way to combat sitting too  much while you are working. It is really easy to purchase a standing desk at amazon.

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