Sitting Is The New Smoking

There is no denying that smoking is a lifestyle choice with serious health repercussions. Most people are aware of this and have made a conscious decision not to start smoking. Unfortunately, these same people may face just as high of a cancer risk if they lead a sedentary lifestyle. Unlike past generations where most people engaged in physical labor to earn a living, we live in an era where it’s common to spend all day in front of a computer at the office and then come home and spend the evening in front of the television. If we’re not in front of some type of screen, we’re driving somewhere in our cars. All of this sitting is having serious consequences for our health.

Sitting is the new smoking

Deadlier Than Tobacco

Recently, a reporter from the Los Angeles Times interviewed Dr. James Levine, the director at the Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative at the Mayo Clinic. Dr. Levine also invented the treadmill desk as a way to keep office workers moving during the day. He has discovered through his research that prolonged sitting greatly increases the risk of several types of cancer as well as heart disease, high cholesterol, and Type II diabetes. Like smoking, extensive sitting affects the body for years. This remains true even after people decide to incorporate more physical activity into their lives. Dr. Levine goes so far as to say that sitting for hours every day, year after year, is more dangerous to our health than years of smoking.

Stating the Obvious: Too Much Sitting Leads to Obesity

People who spend six or more hours per day sitting are far more likely to gain weight than those who make an effort to limit sitting to three hours a day or less. While a healthy diet and exercise are key to maintaining a desirable weight, so is moving frequently throughout the day. When we spend most of our waking hours at a desk or on the couch, there is no opportunity to burn off the calories we consume from meals and snacks. Obesity and all of the health complications that go with it is the natural result of so much inactivity.

Stiff Muscles and Arthritis

In addition to serious health consequences like cancer, prolonged sitting can cause problems with muscle stiffness that eventually causes arthritis and mobility problems later in life. Being locked in a seated position with elbows bent and leaning forward to stare at a screen slowly destroys the muscles over time. After decades of sitting like this, the muscles in the arms, neck, back, and legs become painful to move. That is because they were locked in place for so long that they lost their pliability.

Sitting Less Improves Physical and Mental Health

A steady, serious decline in physical health is not the only consequence of too much sitting. Medical researchers have also implicated it as a leading cause of clinical depression. Those who sit frequently and don’t exercise at all have nearly a 100 percent greater risk of struggling with this serious mood disorder. Physical activity increases levels of dopamine in the brain, a chemical that is responsible for mood regulation. People who lead a completely sedentary lifestyle can make small changes every day to help improve their health. As they meet each new goal, it only helps them feel better about themselves and more optimistic about life.