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Sitting is the New Smoking: Break the Nasty Habit

Return to Heath and Nutrition Agent Articles

Bad news, folks. Recent reports claim that sitting is the new smoking. But K-State Research and Extension just might have the intervention that will help you quit.

Even if you exercise regularly sitting still impacts your health

Studies show that it doesn't matter how active you are. If you sit for more than an hour at a time, you are jeopardizing your health and affecting your longevity. This is not good news for our society because we sit — a lot. But our bodies aren't designed for sitting. They're designed for standing and moving. Yet over 90% of our activities (working, driving, technology, eating, watching television) encourage us to sit for hours on end, and most of us spend about 80% of our waking hours sitting.

The body will adjust itself to support whatever activity you perform the most, and if 80% of our activities are sedentary then the body will conform to that position. And when the body's mass is being supported by a chair instead of being challenged by gravity, it will lose flexibility and strength, and this of course leads to physical ailments and disease because we just simply weren't designed to be sedentary. It's no wonder we have such horrible health statistics.

Many Americans will blame this on the need to sit to do work at their "desk job". But even folks who've retired will often get into routines that are more sedentary than when they worked. Simply standing more (for 15 minutes within each hour) can interrupt this negative trend. But I think the bigger issue is inertia.  Remember that concept from junior high science class? Inertia says an object in motion tends to stay in motion while an object at rest tends to stay at rest. And the only way to get an object to go from rest to motion is by some interrupting force. This is where Extension's intervention comes in; keep reading.

The effects of inertia

Have you noticed that while it's really hard to develop a certain habit, once you have that habit it's even harder to break it? That's inertia working. I've noticed this in my own observations of active and inactive individuals. People who are inactive have no trouble being inactive for long stretches of time. But if you spend time with an active person, being still for too long is almost painful for them. I've been in meetings where folks, after an hour or so, have to stand because they've been sitting too long. This is inertia. And it's also why it's so hard for folks to go from being inactive to active. They need an interrupting force to get them going. It's not easy. It takes more effort to get going then it does to maintain the go. And getting started is the hardest part.

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Crystal Futrell
Family and Consumer Sciences Agent