Two quotes started it all, the debate on which is worse or whether too much sitting is just as unhealthy for you as smoking.
“Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death,” Dr. James Levine said in a 2014 interview with the Los Angles Times. He’s director of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative and inventor of the treadmill desk.
“Sitting is so incredibly prevalent that we don’t even question how much we’re doing it. And because everyone else is doing it, it doesn’t even occur to us that it’s not OK. In that way, sitting has become the smoking of our generation,” business consultant Nilofer Merchant said in a TED 2013 talk viewed more than 2.1 million times online.
Studies published in such sources as the American Journal of Epidemiology and the Journal of the National Cancer Institute link prolonged sitting and sedentary lifestyles to a higher risk of breast and colon cancers and death from cardiovascular diseases.
Headlines such as “Sitting Is the New Smoking — 7 Ways a Sedentary Lifestyle Is Killing You” and “Your Desk Job Is Killing You: The Truth About Sitting Down” sound grim, but not everyone agrees that your sofa is out to get you.
A 2015 British study by the International Journal of Epidemiology found that “sitting time was not associated with all-cause mortality risk.” It recommended that policymakers and clinicians be cautious about placing emphasis on sitting behavior as a risk factor for mortality that is distinct from the effect of physical activity.
The best course is to pay attention to what your body is telling you — weight gain, a sore back and hips, a stiff neck and shoulders — and follow your doctor’s advice.
— Janet Roberts