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Is Sitting the New Smoking?

Since COVID-19 began, people have begun transitioning to home-based work. Is sitting truly as bad smoking... lets explore this trend.

According to an article on website (click here for the article), people who sit for 8 hours or more per day are at risk for the following conditions:

- 112% increased risk for diabetes

- 147% increased risk of cardiovascular events (i.e. heart attack, stroke)

- 90% increased risk of death from cardiovascular events

- 49% increased risk of death from any cause

These risk factors, as the website claims, is due to decreased blood flow, which can lead to possible blood clots in the legs, as well as increased insulin resistance and increased fat production.

Then there are other sites that state the opposite. One such site is, where they state quite a different argument (find the article here). The major crux of the article is listed below:

"University of South Australia epidemiologist Dr Terry Boyle, one of nine researchers involved in the evaluation, says media stories comparing sitting with smoking increased 12-fold from 2012 to 2016, and some respected academic and clinical institutions have also spread the myth.

"The simple fact is, smoking is one of the greatest public health disasters of the past century. Sitting is not, and you can't really compare the two," Dr Boyle says.

"First, the risks of chronic disease and premature death associated with smoking are substantially higher than for sitting. While people who sit a lot have around a 10-20 per cent increased risk of some cancers and cardiovascular disease, smokers have more than double the risk of dying from cancer and cardiovascular disease, and a more than 1000 per cent increased risk of lung cancer.

"Second, the economic impact and number of deaths caused by smoking-attributable diseases far outweighs those of sitting. For example, the annual global cost of smoking-attributable diseases was estimated at US$467 billion in 2012 and smoking is expected to cause at least one billion deaths in the 21st century.

"Finally, unlike smoking, sitting is neither an addiction nor a danger to others.

"Equating the risk of sitting with smoking is clearly unwarranted and misleading, and only serves to trivialize the risks associated with smoking," Dr Boyle says."

Well, this is just a taste of the internet's findings on the debate, and I simply put the request "research sitting is the new smoking" into Google.

My personal feelings are that both sitting and smoking are detrimental in their own respective ways.

Smoking is DEFINITELY unhealthy and leads to multiple complications down the road the longer you smoke. I have seen the lungs of chronic smokers while in cadaver lab in school, and, believe me, it is a life-changing event. I have never smoked cigarettes in my lifetime, but I knew at that moment I never would. The lungs turn dark grey to black, and if the person has COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) the bronchioles (tubes that bring air into the lungs) are absolutely blocked with black sludge, which is made up of mucus that cannot exit the lungs, filled with residual smoke, tar and other chemicals. This sludge essentially suffocates the smoker over time.

The reason I am writing this article, however, is the 'sitting' portion of the debate. Everyone is working from home more now due to COVID-19, including kids who cannot attend daily classes. The prolonged sitting can place pressure on the lower back and pelvis, with people slumping over their computer affecting their neck and middle back posture. The constant reading and gazing at your monitor's warm glow can strain your eyes, causing tension and headaches. People also can get distracted easier, since the internet is a virtually endless trove of information that you can get lost in, causing loss of time, both physically and mentally. This information, depending on what you read, can also increase your stress levels, especially if you read things that go against your beliefs.

So, what do we do? My personal suggestions are simple:

- Take breaks every hour or so. Stand up, move around, stretch, go for a walk, whatever it takes, get the blood moving.

- Stay conscious of your posture. Do not slump forward or look down very long. Sit back in your chair, upright, with your head and eyes looking straight at your monitor, feet resting flat on the floor.

- If you have to be at your computer for your job, consider investing in a standing desk. It will allow you to transition from sitting to standing in very little time and still allow you to work while changing positions to allow the body to move.

- Attempt to increase your physical activity, even if it means walking 10-30 minutes per day. This simply activity will increase blood flow, allow for posture changes, and you get a change of scenery.

What are your thoughts on this debate?

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