Of all the ways you can mistreat your body, is sitting for long periods of time really that bad? As awareness about the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle increases, it looks like sitting too much is something of a bad habit. And for the most part, sitting for 8 hours may be as bad as smoking or eating junk food on the regular. Resting on your behind too much may cause all sorts of health complications, as strange as that may sound.
Some major medical institutions are all against that sitting life, too. In fact, sitting for an excessive amount of time each day is associated with health conditions such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and irregular cholesterol levels, according to the Mayo Clinic. Excessive sitting may even be connected to a higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease or cancer, as further explained by the Mayo Clinic. Although more research is still needed to fully understand the effects of the sitting habit, the initial findings are pretty concerning.
To learn more about the ways sitting can damage the body, Romper spoke with a variety of healthcare workers. Here's what a group of physicians, chiropractors, and personal trainers had to say about sitting.
1. Consuming Unhealthy Foods
Some healthcare pros even equate too much sitting with eating unhealthy foods. "Unfortunately, yes, sitting for more than 8 hours is similar to eating unhealthy foods or drinks," says Dr. Albana Greca. However, to help counteract the effects of sitting for so long, you can schedule regular breaks to stand up, move around, and drink water, as Dr. Greca explains.
2. Sleeping Too Little
Excessive sitting may also be similar to going without sufficient sleep. "Sitting for 8 hours a day is equivalent to sleeping half as much as you should," says Dr. Thanu Jey, chiropractor and clinical director of the Yorkville Sports Medicine Clinic. "Either way, your body is taking on mileage without the opportunity to rest and recover, which is crucial to a healthy spine and a healthy body."
It depends on who you ask, but some healthcare professionals, sitting for too long is just as concerning as smoking. "So, the saying is correct, sitting is the new smoking," says Dr. James R Fedich, chiropractor and clinic director of Village Family Clinic. In fact, he says, the number of smoking-related deaths per year is lower than excessive-sitting-related fatalities. Worldwide, tobacco use is directly responsible for the deaths of about 7 million people every year, according to the World Health Organization. And although sitting on its own isn't going to kill a person, excessive time spent sitting is related to a higher risk of death from all causes, including cancer and heart disease, according to the American Cancer Society.
Plus, the effects may be even more pronounced when combined with an otherwise sedentary lifestyle. "Studies have shown that sitting all day without taking part in any physical activity can pose similar risks of dying to those of people who smoke," says Adnan Munye, certified personal trainer and founder of AMM Fitness. Sitting a lot may be another predictive risk factor for other health issues.
However, not all healthcare professionals agree that sitting for long periods of time is as damaging as smoking cigarettes regularly. "The new phrase sitting is the new smoking has become mainstream as of late. It is catchy, but is this entirely the truth? I'd say the affects of nicotine are far more damaging and far less reversible than the effects of prolonged sitting," says Dr. Keaton Ray, physical therapist at Movement X. "However, sitting all day isn't going to get you a clean bill of health anytime soon." Whether it's an exact comparison to smoking or not, sitting for several hours a day is still not a healthy habit.
4. Leading A Sedentary Lifestyle
There's still some debate over whether exercise can totally counteract the effects of sitting for 8 or more hours each day. "Those who sit for long periods of time are at 2 [times] the risk of developing diabetes and have a 147 [percent] increase in their risk for cardiovascular disease, even with exercise," says Sherry McAllister, DC, Executive VP of Foundation for Chiropractic Progress. So no matter what else you do during the day, it looks like sitting for hours on end is unhealthy. That said, there are plenty of simple ways you can stay healthy even when sitting a lot, as explained in Bustle. Whether you pay closer attention to posture or invest in a standing desk, make it a point to counteract the impact of sitting for too long each day.