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Is Sitting the New Smoking?

Quality research has demonstrated over and over again the importance of being an active individual in order to maintain a healthy body and mind.  So, what happens if you are not active, have a desk job, and have no desire to get out of your recliner when you are at home?

Media coverage of health-related topics can often times be misinforming and inaccurate.  There have been news stories suggesting that “sitting is the new smoking” with the misunderstanding that smoking might actually be better for you than sitting too much.  But is this actually true?  Can being sedentary and sitting a lot during your day be just as dangerous to your health as smoking?   Let’s see what the actual research has to say about this.

A recent meta-analysis investigates the health risks associated with both sitting and smoking and found that they are not comparable. On average, adults typically spend 9 hours per day sitting. High volumes of sitting (greater than 8 hours per day) have been associated with adverse health outcomes compared to low volumes of sitting (less than 4 hours per day). The risk estimates have been observed for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer mortality, and all-cause mortality. Excessive sitting time almost doubles the risk of type 2 diabetes, but only increases incidence and mortality risk associated with other common chronic diseases by approximately 10 – 20%.  But, risk estimates for smoking far outweigh those for sitting.  Therefore, when the media equates the effects of sitting with the effects of smoking they are providing inaccurate and misleading information to the public. Distorted information regarding health benefits and risks can lead to confusion in regards to public health recommendations and can unfortunately influence people’s behaviors. Ultimately, we know that too much sedentary activity and smoking are both individually bad for your health and the two do not need to be compared.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) developed physical activity guidelines for adults to reduce health-related risks of sitting, which are as follows:

  • Move MORE, sit LESS!! Even minimal physical activity is better than none!
  • Perform at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) to 300 minutes (5 hours) per week at moderate intensity OR 75 minutes (1.25 hours) to 150 minutes (2.5 hours) per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity
  • Spread aerobic activity throughout the week
  • Perform muscle strengthening activities of moderate or higher intensity that involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days of the week

If you have any questions or need ideas on how to be a more active individual, call Omaha Physical Therapy Institute today!

Ashlie Eckmann, PT, DPT



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