Is sitting the new smoking? We reveal the truth behind the claim 

You may have heard the saying ‘sitting is the new smoking’. It feels like every day, there’s something else we need to worry about when it comes to our health. But is it true? Can sitting for long periods of time adversely affect your health? And is a sedentary lifestyle as bad as smoking? 

The short answer is ‘no’. 

According to University of South Australia epidemiologist Dr Terry Boyle, "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. Unlike smoking, sitting is neither an addiction nor a danger to others."

Yes, sitting for more than 8 hours a day can increase the risk of premature death and some chronic diseases by as much as 10 to 20%. But smoking remains a much more severe health risk. 

If you smoke, you’re increasing your risk of dying early by about 180%!

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Why is keeping your body moving is so good for you?

So, now we’ve established that the sensationalist claim - ‘sitting is the new smoking’ - is an exaggeration, let’s stop and think about it. A lack of activity, let’s call it exercise, is still a serious risk to your quality of life. Your body was built to move. Back in time, before we were all chained to our computers or spent hours watching Netflix, our ancestors were constantly moving. 

Finding, growing and preparing food. Building shelter and caring for family. It’s only in more recent times that we find ourselves doing jobs where we sit for hours at a time. 

4 reasons why you need to keep moving

Regular exercise has so many benefits. 

  1. It simply makes us feel better. 

  2. It’s also essential for our mental health. 

  3. Exercise helps prevent chronic diseases like Diabetes 2, heart disease and even cancer. 

  4. Strong muscles help prevent injury and falls, particular in older people.

  5. For adults, just 2 ½ to 5 hours of moderate-intensity physical activity or 1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours of vigorous-intensity physical activity a week can make all the difference. Doing muscle strengthening activities on at least 2 days a week is also recommended by the Australian Department of Health

Pilates helps counter the problems caused by sitting too much

For many people, sitting for long periods of time is hard to avoid. If you work in any sort of office, it’s just part of the job. Pilates is the perfect exercise to support your body, even when you’re sitting for many hours a day. By strengthening your core muscles and improving your posture, you can minimise the harm. 

I recommend you also speak to your Pilates instructor about exercises you can do at your desk to help alleviate tension in tight muscles. Here are just a couple: 

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Neck Stretch- There’s nothing like a simple neck stretch to help relieve tight muscles and prevent headaches. You can do this stretch while you sit or stand. Looking straight ahead, tilt your head so that your ear moves towards your shoulder. Move your hand on top of your head and gently apply a bit of pressure. This should help relieve tension in your neck. Do one side, then the other. 

Shoulder exercise– We often hold a lot of tension in our shoulders when we sit for extended periods of time. You can do this exercise sitting or standing. First, engage your core. Then simply rotate your shoulders in comfortable, slow circles – forward, up, down and back – 5 times. Then move your shoulders in opposite circles – back, down, forward and up.    

Let’s get moving!

As a Pilates instructor, I love helping people feel good. Being able to move freely, without pain is such a joy. Join me at my Pilates class and let’s getting moving together!