Sitting Isn’t the New Smoking. It’s More Like the New Moderate Drinking.
In an effort, amid the 24-7 bombardment of news, to get people to sit up (well, stand up) and take notice of the effects of their sedentary lifestyles, some publications (including, sad to say, this one; our apologies) have been reporting that sitting is the new smoking.
It isn’t. And experts are getting heated over the comparison, saying it obscures the much more serious dangers of smoking.
“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,” says University of South Australia epidemiologist Terry Boyle, PhD.
Boyle is one of a team of nine researchers from multiple countries that studied the effects of excessive sitting versus smoking on health globally. While a sedentary lifestyle that involves sitting for more than eight hours a day does up the chances of premature death by 10 to 20% — smoking increases the risk of early death by 180%.
“While people who sit a lot have around a 10 to 20% increased risk of some cancers and cardiovascular disease, smokers have more than double the risk of dying from cancer and cardiovascular disease, and a more than 1,000% increased risk of lung cancer,” Boyle says.
Smoking also carries risks to others in the environment, and is addictive, while there’s no such thing as second-hand sitting and the act itself is not addictive (even if some of the Netflix shows you watch while lounging around are).
So, rather than sitting being the new smoking, it’s more like sitting is the new moderate drinking — still not great for you (a recent study in The Lancet concluded there’s no amount of alcohol that’s good for you) — but far, far less risky than inhaling tar.