Sitting Really is the New Smoking

By now many of us have heard the phrase “Sitting is the new smoking” but it truly isn’t an exaggeration. Dr. James Levine co-director at the Mayo clinic says, “Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death.”

Here’s why,  70 % of full time American workers hate sitting but 86% do it all day, every day. In addition to all that sitting at work, meals and commuting, 36% add 1-2 hours watching T.V., 29% add home computer time, 25% lounge while reading etc. and 10% game for 1-2 additional hours. Americans sitting an average of 13 hours daily combined with sleeping 8 hours, results in a sedentary lifestyle of 21 hours per day!

The link between sedentary lifestyles and diabetes, several types of cancer, obesity, cardiovascular disease and depression is undeniable. Not surprising that the scientific community has started using the phrase “sitting disease.” The positive is that standing increases energy, burns extra calorie, tones muscles, improves posture, increases blood flow, decreases blood sugar levels and ramps up metabolism. Experts recommend the maximum amount of time that you should be sitting in total is 3 hours per day! That may be challenging for office workers who may not have much control over their time and environment. Some suggestions include using a stand up desk. Many large companies have seen the research by now and understand it’s actually in their best interest to allow or even provide this alternative. Holding standing only or walking meetings are not only invigorating but tend to be more efficient and productive. On the other hand, some smaller companies, such as Fully-Verified, went a step further and have built a recreation room in their premises. Many of my clients have implemented healthy self-care “rules” like standing for all phone calls, walking to coworkers instead of emailing or taking stairs instead of elevators.

What is helpful to remember is that interrupting the sitting is crucial. Any type of extra movement, shift in position, bending down, even fidgeting, is beneficial. While the real self protection resides in radically reducing the amount of time spent sitting on a daily basis, the interruption of  sitting is a worthwhile and instantly empowering strategy. Sit no more than 50 minutes straight, ideally more like 30 minutes, without a standing and/or movement break. Not only will it improve your physical health, it is also better for your mind as studies show that deep, sustained concentration for 45-50 minutes followed by a 10 minute break is the most efficient and effective way to work, greatly enhancing productivity. Changing one’s perspective and attitude regarding sitting will help implement and sustain these strategies as opportunities to vastly improve overall health.

Sources for more ideas on how to sit less and integrate more movement into your day include: Get Up!: Why Your Chair Is Killing You and What You Can Do About It by Dr. James Levine.