Sitting Is The New Smoking
I quite enjoy the concept of Micromorts & Microlives. Our average life expectancy can be divided into one-million, half-hour units. I enjoy the maths of risk. The things that add or subtract units of our lives.
Sitting Is Dangerous
There’s been some media over the last couple of years suggesting that “sitting is the new smoking”.
Research now tells us that the number of hours we sit each day is an independent predictor of our health, similar to other factors like age, smoking status, obesity, & exercise. It turns out that sitting for 10 hours a day is harmful for your health whether or not you exercise, how old you are, whether or not you smoke, & whether or not you’re fat or thin. Sitting is bad for you.
The longer we sit, the less healthy we are. There are a couple of reasons…
1) Back Pain
Sitting is the primary cause of low back pain, which is a leading cause of disability in the general population (second only to depression), with nearly four million Australians suffering at any one time. Total treatment costs in Australia exceed $4 billion a year. Back pain is the most common musculoskeletal problem, accounting for one in four patients I see.
The longer we sit, the less physically active we are. Physical inactivity shortens our lives. It is the 4th leading cause of death. Physical inactivity is the second greatest contributor, behind tobacco smoking, to the cancer burden in Australia. Physical inactivity is estimated to be the main cause for approximately 25% of breast and colon cancers, 27% of diabetes, and approximately 30% of ischaemic heart disease.
From an evolutionary point of view we’ve had 100,000 generations of being hunter-gatherers, moving around, doing different things all day. We’ve only had 10 generations of industry, where we do the one thing all day, commonly including too much sitting. Our bodies just aren't used to sitting for long periods of time.
Sounds terrible? However, the solution is easy…
New research has found that getting up and moving around for two minutes every hour is associated with a 33% lower risk of dying prematurely.
Breaking up the sitting time appears to be more beneficial to life expectancy than doing daily exercise. You can eliminate the harmful effects of sitting 10 hours a day by getting up for 2 mins every hour.
Breaking up sitting time also is also good for back pain.
I’ve spent years trying to get people to sit with better posture to prevent back pain. It’s super hard to maintain. It takes continuous deliberate effort, which is almost impossible. I’ve tried posture -aids, ergonomic chairs, lumbar supports, cushions, Swiss balls, taping. I’ve given up. You just can’t sit with perfect posture for long periods of time.
I’ve now moved to trying to get people to get up and move for a couple of minutes every 20 minutes. You can get away with sitting with the worst posture imaginable if you don’t stay there too long. Overall it takes a lot less thought and effort for a much better result.
I think the change to less sitting needs to be driven by employers over the next few years, similar to how smoking was fazed out of work places. I think we will see more stand-up desks, stand-up meetings, "walk-around" meetings, and possibly enforced limits on sitting time.
So whether or not we do it for our backs or for a long life, we need to sit less & move more.
What an excellent read, Ferg! It has been 5 long years since I first came to you with my enduring and worsening injury, that had developed residual effects on my hip and knees due to my gait.
29/12/2015 08:11:46 am
Hey, thanks mate. Good to hear from you. I hope you're doing well.
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