How Sitting is Worse For Your Health Than Smoking

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We have always known that inactivity is detrimental to overall health, but I have recently been reading more and more published research that spells out just HOW much a sedentary lifestyle impacts human health.

As work practises continue to push employees into an ever-more sedentary lifestyle, regardless of specific business, from a driver’s vehicle seat, an office chair, or a couch at home, this culture that promotes a lack of movement is taking a major toll on the population’s health.


People are spending greater periods of time sat down in one place and researchers say its wreaking havoc on our bodies, so much so, that this worrying summation has been coined:

“Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death.”

Researchers have found and continue to find evidence that prolonged sitting increases the risk of developing several serious illnesses like various types of cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Another reason the smoking analogy is relevant is that studies have repeatedly shown the effects of long-term sitting are not reversible through exercise or other good habits.

Sitting, like smoking, is very clearly bad for our health and the only way to minimise the risk is to limit the time we spend on our butts each day.

Published studies 2 have found that people sitting for more than six hours a day died earlier than their counterparts who sat for three hours a day or less. The risk was shown to worsen with each two hour increase in sitting time. The time spent sitting was independently associated with total mortality, regardless of physical activity level.

How a Sedentary Lifestyle Affects the Body

  • –  Separate research links long-term sedentary habits with breast and colon cancer.
  • –  Sitting for extended periods effects blood sugar levels and insulin in the body, meaning not only are sedentary people more likely to be obese, but they are also more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
  • –  Muscles are healthiest when they are being used and challenged on a regular basis, but when locked in sitting position for the majority of the day, everyday, the contracted muscles become shortened and tight (Hip
    Flexors, Hamstrings) and this, together with modern day activities(typing on a keyboard, driving, playing video games etc..) we see shortening through the pectoral muscles. The opposite, or antagonistic muscles to these become long and weakened (Glutes, Upper Back). These muscular imbalances lead to postural issues and are part of the reason elderly people have such a hard time getting around later in life.
  • –  LPL or lipoprotein lipase is an enzyme that breaks down fat and uses it as energy. When the enzyme isn’t working as it should, that fat is stored. The LPL level is dependant on activity levels and levels are depressed as a result of long bouts of inactivity.

Toby Clay
European Personal Training Institute



2 Leisure Time Spent Sitting in Relation to Total Mortality in a Prospective Cohort
of US Adults, Epidemiology Research Program, American Cancer Society