Experts Say Sitting Is the New Smoking

Have you heard the saying that sitting is the new smoking?

That phrase was coined by Dr. James Levine, director of the Mayo Clinic at Arizona State University’s Obesity Solutions Initiative and inventor of the treadmill desk. Although Dr. Levine is the one who came up with this mantra, many other researchers and health experts share his sentiment. Studies show that sitting for hours at a time is extremely hard on your health.

“Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV, and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death.”—Dr. James Levine

One surprising thing discovered—no matter how much you exercise, if you sit for long periods of time, your health suffers. Like smoking, the effects of long-term sitting are not reversible through exercise or other good habits.

Health Problems from Prolonged Sitting

Researchers have found that too much sitting can contribute to several health problems:

  • A study of more than 4 million people, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, found that sitting for long periods of time increases your risk for colon, endometrial, and possibly, lung cancer
  • Other research shows sedentary habits increase breast and colon cancer
  • Sitting for long periods effects blood sugar levels and insulin in the body, which increases the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes
  • Extended sitting causes muscles to get stiff. After years of this, it becomes difficult for your body to run, jump, or even stand. Researchers believe this may be part of the reason elderly people have such a hard time getting around later in life.
  • A study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine studied over 9000 middle-aged women. They found that the women who sat for more than seven hours a day were 47 percent more likely to suffer from depression than those who sat four hours or fewer.

Move It!

The solution is pretty simple.

Dr. Keith Diaz, an associate research scientist at Columbia University says, “For every 30 consecutive minutes of sitting, stand up and move/walk for five minutes at a brisk pace to reduce the health risks from sitting.”

This movement doesn’t have to be vigorous exercise. You just need to get off of your chair, couch, bed, wherever, and MOVE. That’s not so hard! Here are some things you can do when it’s time to move:

1. Take the stairs.
Walking just two flights of stairs daily burns enough calories to melt six pounds in a year. In fact, climbing stairs for two minutes, five days a week, provides the same calorie burn as a 36-minute walk.

2. Add 15 minutes of walking to your lunch or dinner.
We often take 30 to 60 minutes for a mealtime, but eating usually takes just 15 minutes or so. After eating, spend some of that extra time walking instead of sitting.

3. Turn TV time into a workout.
Instead of just sitting on the couch, why not move a little while watching tv? One thing you could do—straighten one of your lower legs so it’s parallel to the floor, then lower it, switching back and forth between legs for as long as you can do it. And use those commercial breaks to get up and stretch or move around!

4. Spend a minimum of one hour outdoors each week.
There’s a direct connection between fitness levels and the amount of time you spend outdoors vs. indoors. People who spend a lot of time outside feel more energized, upbeat, and fit. What to do outside? Walk the dog. Practice your golf or tennis swing. Look for unusual birds.

5. Talk standing.
Whenever talking on the telephone, walk or pace if possible. Try to move, or at least stand, while chatting on the phone.

Help Remembering

It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re reading, surfing the internet, or watching tv. But there are apps and computer programs that can help you remember to move. There are several to choose from—you can search and see which works best for you. We’ll recommend a free one for three different devices to help get you started.

If you have an iPhone or iPad:
App: Stand Up!
Set your reminder interval to any five-minute increment between five minutes and two hours. The header shows at a glance how you're doing, and how long until your next alarm.

If you have an Android phone or tablet:
App: Randomly RemindMe
This app will let you set any number of custom reminders throughout the day.

On the computer:
Program: Workrave.org
This program alerts you to take breaks throughout the day when you’re on your computer. You can select the time between breaks and the break time. It will even give you exercises to do during your break! 

Options to Keep Moving at Grand Tapestry

Hopefully we’ve convinced you that you need to move around every half hour or so. Grand Tapestry has several options to help you with this!

If we’re having nice weather, take a stroll around the property. If it's cold or rainy, walk the halls or use a treadmill in the fitness center. Take one of our exercise classes daily, or participate in another Grand Tapestry activity that sounds fun to you. Just getting to class will keep you moving! Plan to meet your neighbors for lunch, a glass of wine, or a chat outside on the patio.

Just Get Up!

As it turns out, just being up and about throughout the day can be healthier for you than doing a rigorous workout and sitting the rest of the time. It makes sense, when you think about how we used to live—walking and working all day. In fact, other than for athletes and soldiers, the idea of “working out” never existed until just a few decades ago!

There are several ways that we can help keep you moving at Grand Tapestry. Contact us to learn more. The important thing is that you keep moving. Pick a way to remind yourself, and then every 30 minutes or so, make sure to move!