Sitting Is The New Smoking?

We’ve all heard this recent cliché but is it true? As women in the workplace, we may be spending many of these hours sitting at our desk, during meetings and attending conferences. Is this as harmful to us as smoking?

According to researchers around the world, it is a …. NO. They believe these can’t and should not be compared due to the huge difference in health consequences, specifically cardiovascular disease and cancers. 

While sitting for a prolonged period of time, greater than 8 hours/day, is not necessarily beneficial to your health, there is an approximate 10-20% increased risk in some cancers and cardiovascular disease. Smokers, on the other hand, have more than double the risk of dying from cancer and cardiovascular disease and more than 1,000% increased risk of lung cancer.  

Per the researchers, trying to equate sitting with smoking is “unwarranted and misleading, and only serves to trivialize the risks associated with smoking.” (1)

As a physician, I am adamant about not smoking and the need for smoking cessation. This is one lifestyle change which dramatically impacts your lifespan and quality of life. Regarding sitting, I also believe there can be modifications made to improve your health and wellness. Try not to sit for prolonged periods of time, more than 30-45 minutes. If on a conference call, walk around your office, if possible, rather than sit at your desk. Consider getting a stand-up table top desk for your computer, which allows you to convert your workstation from sitting to standing throughout your work-day. Lastly, take a break every 90 minutes to take a short walk to get water or use the restroom. These short 10-15 minute breaks have shown to increase productivity and performance.  

1. Vallance, J. et al. Evaluating the Evidence on Sitting, Smoking and Health: Is Sitting Really the New Smoking?  American Journal of Public Health, 2018; 108 (11): 1478

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