Is Sitting Really the New Smoking?

When you think of something life-threatening, you probably would not conjure up images of your sofa, or office chair. But according to many researchers, excessive sitting is a potential threat to your health. This is where the phrase ‘sitting is the new smoking’ came from, and you may have heard it being casually thrown around – perhaps even more so as people work from home and adapt to changing lifestyles. But is sitting really the new smoking?

Research has shown that sitting for long periods of time is linked to a number of health concerns, namely, elevated blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and high cholesterol levels. And you can minimize your risk for all these concerns simply by making one change: spend less time sitting! The impact of movement and physical activity, even if it is light and leisurely, can be immense. You burn more calories, maintain muscle tone, aid digestion, and improve your overall well-being.

While exercising is extremely beneficial, it does not negate the harmful effects of sitting for long periods of time. Any extended sitting, either at a desk, or couch, or while driving, can be detrimental. Research that analysed 13 independent studies on this subject reported that those who sat for more than eight hours a day with no physical activity had a risk of dying that was similar to the risks posed by obesity and smoking.

A sedentary lifestyle is an important risk factor for heart disease. This means that the more you sit, the less active you are. And the less you move, the more your risk for heart disease increases. A study published in the aptly named journal, Circulation, found that individuals who spent more time being sedentary had an increased likelihood of heart disease, and the longer the bout of sedentary behavior, the greater the risk. Each additional hour of sedentary time, on average was associated with a 12% increase in multivariable adjusted risk for cardiovascular disease.

Since we have established that more moving and less sitting is good for you, how can we put this into practice today? Here are some ways to start:

  • Take a break from sitting every 30 minutes and walk around your house or office
  • Stand while talking on the phone
  • If you work at a desk, you can try switching it up with a high table or counter for certain parts of the day
  • Opt to walk and talk when you need to discuss something, or meet with someone

Sitting may not be the new smoking, but let’s make walking the first step to wellness and heart health.


#1. What is a health concern linked with excessive sitting?