Is Being Sedentary the New Smoking? How Can We Prevent This?


Stop and think about your typical day. How much sitting do you do? How much movement or activity do you get in a typical workday? You have probably already seen the headlines, “Is sitting killing you?” or “Is sitting the new smoking?” If you’re sitting a good portion of your day, it’s especially important to add activities like movement therapy into your daily routine.

Many of you have desk jobs that require you to sit for greater than 8 hours per day. Now think about your commute to work. You probably sit for 45 minutes to an hour in traffic to get to and from your job. In the evening you might plop yourself onto the couch to binge watch your favorite Netflix series or log into your computer to search the web, look up a recipe, or peruse Facebook. In total, that is a whole lot of sitting. However, the other side is that you woke up early to go for a run, hit the gym to lift some weights, or do a barre class for an hour.

According to The British Journal of General Practice, “recent research suggests that sedentary lifestyles are themselves a risk factor for cardiometabolic morbidity and all-cause mortality, even when controlling for overall levels of moderate or vigorous physical activity.” This article later went on to conclude that “the bottom line is the need to find sustainable ways of integrating physical activity throughout the working day rather than viewing exercise purely as an extracurricular activity.”

The greatest take-home message in most of the articles that I have read was that we, as people, need to incorporate more frequent movement throughout our sedentary workday. According to one study [need source], it implied that by increasing your activity level during the day with walking and standing and therefore, reducing your inactivity, can be more effective in helping to reduce certain health risks more than one hour of physical exercise.

So, what are some simple ways to increase your activity level at work?

  • If you are making a phone call, wear a headset and stand or walk during the call.
  • Instead of emailing or calling another co-worker in the office, get up and walk over to their cubicle.
  • Set a timer to get up every hour and take a 5-minute walk around the office or outside the building.
  • Take the stairs rather than the elevator.
  • You don’t need the closest parking spot. Park as far away as you can and walk.
  • Ride your bike or walk to work, if possible.
  • Motivate yourself and co-workers to wear a Fitbit to track your steps and have a monthly or quarterly contest; you can all pitch in $10 and the winner takes all!

In conclusion, most studies have shown a strong correlation between physical inactivity and increased risk of diseases like type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, certain types of cancers, and shorter life expectancies. Knowing this information, it makes a strong argument to get up out of our chairs more often during the day.

The take-home message is to keep moving. Park a little bit further out at the mall or grocery store to get a few more steps in, get out of your seat and incorporate movement therapy more often each day, and continue your normal exercise routine, whether it is running, cycling, yoga, or a weightlifting session. Motion is Lotion!!! It lubricates our joints, improves our cardiovascular capacity, wards off illness and disease, and keeps us moving in a happy, healthy direction!

If you are looking for guidance on lifestyle changes or if pain is keeping you from being active, visit with a physical therapist at one of our locations.


Lori Francoeur

PT, MSPT, CSCS | Owner of the Ahwatukee Location