Sitting is NOT the New Smoking, Shows Canadian Research

If you ever type: “sitting is the new smoking” on an internet browser, then you will see countless pages stating this fact. Or you might have heard it from a friend. The idea sounds more like something you hear in the media and wants to encourage people to have an active life.

However, even if separately both actions – sitting or smoking, are unhealthy, a research team from the Athabasca University shows in an article published last month in the American Journal of Public Health that associating the risks from sitting with smoking is unrelated.

Canada Research Chair in health promotion and chronic disease management, Jeff Vallance, explains that “sitting too long is not good for you.” However, Vallance added that you could not put it up against smoking, “which has been termed the greatest health-related disaster of the 20th century, just does not make sense.”

He reached this conclusion a few years ago when his team made of researchers from Alberta, Australia and Arizona noticed how many times the phrase “Sitting is the new Smoking” appeared in ads, media headlines, and in photos of skeletons in a chair.

An article in the media also speculated that employers might be liable for requiring the employees to sit too much. And soon after, academic publications appeared on this matter, added Vallance:

“To be honest, we got kind of fed up with it. But instead of just saying, ‘It’s silly,’ we decided to get into the literature and actually put the two head to head.”

And so they started comparing smoking and sitting, realizing that some differences were very obvious.

“To equate sitting with smoking is completely erroneous.”

Vallance stated that smoking is an addiction, involving a crave and withdrawal symptoms, whereas sitting is a habit – and you don’t get withdrawal symptoms if you don’t get to sit enough time on that sofa. Then, second-hand smoke harms people around the person that smokes. Excessive sitters will harm only themselves.

Latest medical evidence found by the team shows that people who sit more than eight hours a day have a 10-20% increased risk of getting cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease compared to people that only sit for 2-3 hours a day. The risk of overall death is 22% higher in the people who sit excessively.

On the other hand, smokers face a three-times higher risk of mortality compared to non-smokers. A person that smokes only a few cigarettes a day compared to a nonsmoker has ten times more the chance of getting lung cancer.

Vallance concluded that “the magnitude of those associations are not even in the same ballpark. So to equate sitting with smoking is completely erroneous.”