Sitting is the New Smoking

chair

I saw the article featured below in the Cleveland Clinic update I receive in my email every month. This is not the first time that I heard about sitting being the new smoking.

Being active is important to me, but I sit a lot during the day. I try to get up and move around, but often times I can’t get up in the middle of a long meeting to walk around. Then it’s back to the computer to check in on email and work on projects.

I think the biggest takeaway is to get up and move as much as possible, and if you’re sedentary during the day due to your job, make sure you fit in your workouts to make up for it each day. But this is nothing new, just a reminder. And we all need reminders once in a while to keep us focused and keep us moving.

Read on to learn more about why sitting is the new smoking:

February 02, 2015
Sitting takes bum rap, called ‘the new smoking’

Sitting has gotten a ‘bum rap’ in recent years. One of the most frequently cited studies comes from the Mayo Clinic, where researcher James Levine found a link between sitting for long periods of time and wellness concerns such as obesity and metabolic syndrome, as well as symptoms including increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess waist-area fat, and abnormal cholesterol levels.

Levine concluded that, “Too much sitting also seems to increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.” Some have gone so far as to call sitting “the new smoking” as a way to describe the dangers. Jim Kidd, product manager for Humanscale, a maker of ergonomic chairs and other equipment, thinks that’s not an accurate description. The problem isn’t so much sitting, he says, as lack of movement, especially related to the rise in computer-related technology.

Adjustable desks help increase standing periods“Sitting isn’t bad, but sitting for long periods of time is bad.” According to Humanscale, integrating 2 hours of standing work into an 8-hour workday (15 minutes per hour) appears to be linked to improvements in weight control, cardiovascular health, and worker performance.

If sit-stand or treadmill workstations are not likely to appear at your business, it’s still possible to introduce motion into the workday. Dr. James Levin, the Mayo Clinic researcher, suggests walking with colleagues rather than gathering in a conference room for meetings. Levine says the impact of even leisurely movement can be significant. You burn more calories, which can lead to weight loss and increased energy.

“Even better, the muscle activity needed for standing and other movement seems to trigger important processes related to the breakdown off fats and sugars within the body,” adds Levine. Sitting slows these processes, increasing health risks. Standing or actively moving kicks them back into action.

Blake McGowan, a managing ergonomics consultant with Humantech, agrees that when it comes to sitting and standing, it’s important to strike a balance. “There’s a little bit of misinformation in the general media, but [I agree that] there are some potential health consequences of sitting—or standing—too long.” He says safety and wellness experts and others are finally realizing that excessive sitting or standing is where the problems arise.

“You don’t need to do a triathlon or CrossFit at work,” says McGowan. “You need some level of variation in your day to encourage movement, which promotes blood flow and the flow of nutrients and the removal of metabolic byproducts.”

McGowan is not a fan of tactics like job rotation and pop-up screen messages that remind workers when to get up and move around. He sees them as disruptive and annoying to many people, who simply turn them off, ignoring the warning. McGowan also doubts the benefits of pre-work stretching, which he says “does very little to address the root cause of the problem” and only nominally alters the potential for injury. It can even worsen things for older workers who may injure themselves performing a stretch.

What he does favor are solutions that reduce forces and improve postures and that have a secondary benefit beyond improving worker comfort. An example is providing a printer in a central location rather than on every floor. This not only encourages people to move around, but also lowers printing costs because fewer are in use.

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