Ester Marsh: Have you heard that sitting is the new smoking?

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 22, 2024

In 2016, the “sitting is the new smoking” was written in the British Journal of general practice. The idea among the medical community has been around longer. Sitting is the new smoking became popular when Dr James Levine, a professor at the Mayo Clinic, said that sitting is more dangerous than smoking.

The reason I am writing about this because I absolutely felt my body regress when I was on vacation in my home country. I did something every morning from bodyweight exercises to yoga, and we walked my sister’s dog each day, but I also sat way more than I usually do. Granted, it was all “fun” sitting. Sitting on the terrace, sitting visiting my family and friends, sitting at the wedding and dinner. My body was not happy. I usually average 17-20,000 step per day. And when I sit behind my computer, I sit on a ball. My back is a lot happier that way. However, was it worth it? It absolutely was. Seeing my family and friends and seeing my niece getting married was all worth it. Next year, I will make sure to get more steps in per day. High-risk sitting is 8-11 hours per day. Medium risk sitting is 4-8 hours per day. Low risk sitting is less than 4 hours per day. Too much sitting increases your risk for chronic health problems. This can be heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. And sitting is not just in front of your TV or computer, this also includes sitting in a car. I came back to work this past Thursday and I already feel immediately better, and my body is very happy!

What if you have that 8-hour sitting job? What can you do? Stretch every time you get a chance. You can use a standing desk, use the stairs instead of the elevator. If possible, have walking meetings. When having a break take a walk, if possible, outside so you can get some vitamin D on sunny days. Be aware of your time sitting. Many people do not realize how much they sit per day. Set a goal of a minimum of 10,000 steps per day. Don’t start 10,000 steps if all you do is 5,000 steps. Same with everything else exercise related, start and increase slowly — 500 to 1,000 steps per day. Do not get discouraged if you have days you don’t move as much. Plan your moving each day. Failing to plan will plan you to fail.

I leave you with this quote by Food Matters: “Exercise not only changes your body, it changes your mind, your attitude and your mood. This is the power of moving the body.”

Ester H. Marsh is director of healthy living at the J.F. Hurley YMCA.