No Butts About It: Sitting Is the New Smoking

I work from home, and after commuting to New York City by train for many years, I love it. I can let out the dog or throw in a load of laundry in the middle of the day. Setting up appointments with repairmen or ordering groceries online no longer requires scheduling gymnastics to make sure someone’s there to answer the door.

But my back is killing me, and all those hours spent sitting at my desk is likely to blame. Instead of running for a train or making the rounds at the office or standing by the water cooler (yes, there was a water cooler and yes, we stood around it), I’m at my desk, spending way more hours than I used to in front of a computer. It got to the point that I bought one of those sit-to-stand desks advertised as “easily” adjustable in height so I could work standing up, except it wasn’t so easy and when I was adjusting it my computer fell off the table.

Still, I have to do some something. Someone recently sent me an article about how “sitting is the new smoking.” Researchers have found that a too-sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of cancer and heart disease; a study in the American Journal of Epidemiology even said people who sat more than six hours a day had a higher rate of mortality.

In fact, Dr. James Levine, Director of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative and inventor of the treadmill desk, told the LA Times, “Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death.”

So here I am, smug about never having smoked, and it turns out I’m slowly killing myself by sitting in a chair.

To think I could have been parachuting.

Oh, and a study from the American Journal of Preventative Medicine showed that sitters who didn‘t meet minimum exercise requirements were 47 percent more likely to suffer from depression than people who sat four hours or fewer per day. Now that explains a few things.

Thankfully, the news isn’t all bad. A recent analysis of data from over 1 million people found that 60-75 minutes of physical activity a day eliminated the cardiovascular and mortality risks of sitting. So getting out and walking the dog instead of just letting her out, using the treadmill that’s gathering dust in my study (next to the aforementioned sit-and-stand desk and my tennis racquet), or taking a yoga class are all well worth the effort.

Excuse me while I go find the leash.

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