If you watch Mad Men, you know there was a time in this country when smoking was not only the norm – it was fashionable. Thanks to a decades-long public health and information campaign, most of us can’t imagine living in such a smoke-friendly society.
The same kind of information offensive is now being launched against sitting disease, and the facts are chilling. If you don’t think your sedentary lifestyle is on a par with habitual smoking, it’s time to take a closer look at the evidence.
Research shows that heavy smokers are nearly four times more likely to die from any cause than nonsmokers. In comparison, the Mayo Clinic compared the likelihood of death for people who spend less than two hours per day sitting to those who spend more than four hours sitting and found a 50 percent increased risk of death for the more sedentary group. For those suffering from sitting disease that are sitting six hours or more at the office, the numbers are sure to be even more drastic – perhaps closer to or in line with the risk for heavy smokers.
Studies linking sitting disease with increased risk of heart disease and obesity are well-known, but like smoking, prolonged sitting is also linked with greater cancer risks. Cancer specialist and author David Agus, MD, found that sitting for five or six hours per day, even if you spend an hour per day at the gym, is the equivalent of smoking an entire pack of cigarettes per day. In a 13-year study, The American Cancer Society found that women who sat six hours each day were 37 percent more likely to die by the end of the study period, and men were 18 percent more likely to die.
As with quitting smoking, the benefits of reducing your sitting time are immediate and long-term, reducing risks for sitting disease and improving general health.