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Is sitting the new smoking?

By now you may have heard about the recent study which found that every hour we are seated it cuts about 22 minutes from our life span. Alarmingly, a separate study into smokers shows a reduction of about 11 minutes per cigarette.

With more of us working longer, and often at the expense of exercise, it’s no wonder we experience back pain, sore necks, headaches. Up to 80% of our working day can happen while we’re seated.

"Sitting may have more to do with obesity than [lack of] physical activity," says Professor Adrian Bauman of Sydney University's School of Public Health.

“It is almost like sort of owning a really cool sports car and letting it idle all day long," James Levine, an obesity expert from the Mayo Clinic, recently told NBC News. "The engine gets gunked up. That's what happens to our bodies. The body, as we know, simply isn't built to sit all day."

And unfortunately the news gets worse. Even if you do manage to work out each day, this may not counteract the negative impact of sitting for the long periods.

 "Up until very recently, if you exercised for 60 minutes or more a day, you were considered physically active, case closed," says Travis Saunders, a Ph.D. student and certified exercise physiologist at the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group at Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario.

"Now a consistent body of emerging research suggests it is entirely possible to meet current physical activity guidelines while still being incredibly sedentary, and that sitting increases your risk of death and disease, even if you are getting plenty of physical activity. It's a bit like smoking. Smoking is bad for you even if you get lots of exercise. So is sitting too much."

Unless you have a job that keeps you moving, most of your non-running time is likely spent sitting. And that would make you an "active couch potato"—a term coined by Australian researcher Genevieve Healy, Ph.D., of the University of Queensland to describe exercisers who sit most of their day. If they aren't careful, she says, active couch potatoes face the same health risks as their completely inactive counterparts.

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