Archive for September, 2013

Sitting is the New Smoking

Posted: September 29, 2013 in Articles

The health detriments of smoking tobacco products are numerous, severe and well documented. I am sure, this is not earth shattering news. In fact, we have known about the negative impacts of smoking to the human body for over a half century. Smoking cigarettes used to be a normal part of everyday life for so many people. Smoking was as casual as chewing a piece of gum or having a glass of wine. However, when people started to see the impact smoking was having on their health and the health of others the perception of smoking changed to a more negative view…Again, I am sure you already know this.

However, what you may not know is that the health effects of sitting, or being inactive throughout your day, can be as bad as the health effects of smoking. Smoking is strongly linked to cancer and heart disease, amongst other things. Guess what, so is sitting! Those who accumulate more time sitting as opposed to those who move more often throughout the day suffer from health problems such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and premature death. Many of us may get an hour or two of exercise on most days, which I cannot discourage in any way shape or form. However, how do we spend the rest of our day? If we spend a lot of our time sitting (4 hours or more according to research) we are putting ourselves at health risks similar to those of smoking….even if you get to the gym for an hour a day.

I know in previous articles I have discussed staying active throughout your entire day, not just when you go to the gym. I cannot stress this to you enough; sitting is so bad for us. Humans are not designed to be idle, so sitting disrupts our natural processes. Metabolically, we burn about three times more calories (one calorie per minute) standing than we do sitting. By standing, our metabolic machine breaks down fat more efficiently and keeps our blood sugar at a more constant level. From an orthopedic or a biomechanical stand point, sitting absolutely wrecks our bodies. Our hip flexors become short and anterior structures of the body become more dominant. Over time this affects our movement patterns and can prevent us from engaging in physical activities we enjoy either because of muscle tightness, joint pain and joint dysfunction.

Again, this material regarding physical activity may be information you already know and somewhat redundant. It is not my intention to be repetitive. My intention is to change your perception of physical inactivity similar to how many of you have changed your perception of smoking over the past fifty years. Many of you have quit smoking, chosen to sit in non-smoking sections of restaurants or have avoided situations where people are smoking to improve your health while also discouraging others from smoking. The same can be done with sitting. Instead of sitting while you read maybe you can stand and read. Many people now work at mobile desks, which are basically treadmills with a desk attached. Go to the gym and watch your favorite show on the treadmill or do some yoga while you watch golf. Or go for a walk with a friend instead of sitting to chat. I promise the gossip will be just as good!