Sitting, Waiting, Dying

The Hazards of Remaining Motionless

Is sitting truly the new smoking? The evidence at least supports the conversation.

By Sean Zucker –

With so much innovative technology and bingeable content available to us on our devices every day, it can be hard not to spend all of our time sitting around, enjoying it. However, depressingly, there is significant evidence emerging that too much sitting can produce a plethora of negative health effects and even premature death.

A recent study by the American Journal of Epidemiology found that less sitting and more moving significantly increases life expectancy. The study examined the potential effects solidarity has on mortality by replacing sedentary time with short sedentary bouts or physical activity. They discovered that by replacing merely 30 minutes per day typically spent sedentary with 30 minutes of physical activity with only light intensity resulted in a 17% lower risk of early death. Additionally, when the 30 minutes were spent with moderate to vigorous exercise, the results doubled to 35% lower risk of death.

These findings may seem staggering but there is existing substantiation to support it. There are several hazardous effects of staying sedentary that have earned sitting the title of being the new smoking. Smoking and sitting too long both have similar effects on your body. Lack of movement has long been linked to increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and obesity – all directly tied to a shorter life expectancy. By sitting all day, you’re not depending on lower body muscles to stabilize you, weakening your leg and glute muscles and increasing your body’s risk of injury. Furthermore, your hips and back will suffer similar fates, starting a cycle of weakening from inactivity and producing poor posture which only intensifies these adverse effects.

But recent research suggests the health risks don’t just stop at your metabolism or heart. According to a study conducted by UCLA found that prolonged sedentary action can also damage your brain. Researchers concluded sedentary behavior is directly linked to thinning in regions of the brain that are critical to memory formation.

Feeling bummed yet? It gets worse. Recent studies have emerged with strong evidence that excessive sitting increases the risk of both depression and anxiety. It’s theorized that because the mental health benefits of fitness are lacking when one spends most their time immobile, the inverse effect is produced. Alarmingly, similar studies have suggested prolonged sitting may increase your risk of certain cancers, such as lung, uterine, and colon cancers.

Despite this recent surge of evidence towards the dangers of prolonged inactive behavior, most Americans continue to sit far too much. Washington University School of Medicine recently surveyed 50,000 people across multiple ages, racial, ethnic groups and documented the troubling finding is that the one thing we truly all share is unhealthy levels of sitting.


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