page contents

Is Sitting Really The New Smoking? Plus Tips to Move More in the Office Place


The following blog is an excerpt taken from my weekly insider newsletter last week, Sunday, March 31st. To subscribe for a FREE weekly newsletter, click HERE

To see the video version of this blog, click HERE

A headline I've read a fair bit recently for articles online. But is it click bait or does it have some substance to it?

The short answer, in my opinion, is no. Smoking is way more damaging to your health than sitting down for most of the day. Sure sitting is not great for you, but to compare it to the health risks in smoking is a little much. Although, because we all know that health risks from smoking (It just clicked with me that was roughly this weekend in March 2004 that the smoking ban was introduced - don't ask how my mind works like that), everything that seems bad is now referred to as "the new smoking". 

Even in Netflix health specials, they refer to what they perceive as bad to smoking.

“One egg is as bad for you as five cigarettes.”  - 'What The Health'

No, no it is not. Otherwise, I've had the equivalent of 15 cigarettes this morning for breakfast. 

There are studies to suggest that prolonged sitting can counteract some of the benefits of exercise. Sitting for 13 hours a day (which sounds like a lot but if you have an office job and commute/drive to work along with downtime in the evenings, the 13 hours adds up pretty fast) along with less than 4000 steps a day can make people resistant to the metabolic effects of exercise.

And when you think about it, that really does make sense. It requires your body to use a lot less energy when you are sitting down all day. Your body realises that the bigger muscles in your lower body are not being used as much. Your metabolism slows down, and there is an increase in your blood sugar levels, leading to an increase in weight (and your body is not burning off your stored fat). The is a short TED-Ed video on the harmful effects of sitting HERE

The results are not as impactful as smoking. There's no sitting ban in public spaces on the way. That doesn't mean we shouldn't treat it seriously, either. But instead, realise that there are levels to what is damaging to our health.

We don’t really have a metric for what is too much sitting. The end goal from these tips is just to increase your current level of movement throughout the day which, hopefully, will have a knock effect for your exercise and fitness goals.

I have some tips below you can incorporate to move more in the workplace. Some of them you might not be able to do that you might find elsewhere but, hopefully, there are a few tips you can implement straight away.

1. Standing Desk/Stability Ball
Don't stop reading just yet. Let me explain. 

the office workplace fitness sitting standing smoking training core

I'm putting this one first to get it out of the way. I think there are very lofty ideas that probably won't work such as a standing desk. If you are used to sitting for 8 hours a day at work, going straight from sitting to standing is going to be very uncomfortable (as demonstrated in The Office US). And that is if your boss agrees that you can have a standing desk at work. 

The other option is to get a stability ball and use that in work. Not going to happen though, is it? Also going to be uncomfortable after a while and... yep, covered in The Office US too

We're also taking out the more unrealistic ideas you see on some websites like standing up to watch TV and positioning a treadmill in front of your workplace (please email me if I'm wrong on that one). 

So on to the more practical tips that you can implement in the workplace: 

2. Drink Water
Regardless of any of these tips, you might be in a position where you have to sit 8 hours a day, and that is that. Which is fair enough. But when you got to go to the bathroom, you got to go. Use your work time to get your 3 litres of water in a day. You are definitely going to need more bathroom breaks, and we have discussed the benefits in getting 2-3 litres of water a day in the free eBook sent out to you guys a few weeks ago. 

If you are a new subscriber, I'm feeling generous: CLICK HERE

3. Never take the elevator
If the Die Hard movies taught me anything, it is never to take an elevator. Only bad things in elevators... except Die Hard 5 where he just gets on a lift. We are not counting Die Hard 5. 

die hard 5 elevator lift fitbit tracking steps 10,000

Taking the stairs will increase your step count which brings me to my next tip.

4. Track your steps
You don't need a Fitbit to track your steps. Most phones these days have that function. While 10,000 steps are the magical number that most people talk about when it comes to tracking your steps, I would argue to look at the data on your phone from the previous week to see your average and then increase that number over this week.

Increasing your specific baseline for steps is always going to lead to more achievable and realistic goal setting. Going for 10,000 steps a day is like telling someone to run 5km a day. If you don't know their baseline for running distance, it is impossible to tell if 5km is too much or too little of a goal.

You can set a more manageable target if your step count is particularly low. Moving more in the workplace as well as getting off a stop earlier if you commute work or park a little further if you drive can obviously lead to an increase in steps. And having a number to aim for each day can help motivate you to do those little things and see them add up. 

You can get a bit creative in work for increasing your steps as well by taking a more scenic route to the bathroom with all that extra water you are now drinking in work. Or walk to a co-worker to give a message instead of IM or email. 

The bottom line is to be more mindful and to move more. Try to get up and move at least once an hour. In next week's newsletter, I will include exercises you should add in your workouts if you have an office job or sit around all day to help with potential aches, pains and stiffness that you may be feeling as a result of your job.

But for now, after spending the better part of two hours on this newsletter (and watching The Office US clips on YouTube), I better go down to see 'me ma' and hear about how there's definitely a "grand stretch in the evenings". Happy Mother's Day to all the mammys (or is it mammies?) reading this week's newsletter. 

Enjoy your Sunday and, as always, be ready to get the workout in tomorrow to start the week STRONG!