Why Sitting Might Be As Dangerous As Smoking

You may have heard the frequently repeated phrase that "sitting is the new smoking," coined by international obesity expert Dr. James Levine. However, you may wonder if there is any merit to that theory. In a 2014 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Levine said, "sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death." Some studies suggest that by staying sedentary, there is an increased risk of developing diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers. Other health concerns associated with extended periods of sitting include high blood pressure, unbalanced blood sugars, and high cholesterol (via Mayo Clinic).

The type of health damage caused by smoking and sitting may not be the same, but it seems the end result is. According to the Mayo Clinic, an assessment of multiple studies shows that being sedentary for more than eight hours a day, without physical activity, creates risk factors of dying that are similar to those of smoking.

Health risks of being sedentary

A lifestyle lacking physical activity contributes to the global obesity epidemic, which is responsible for 2.8 million deaths annually (via WHO). According to Harvard Health Publishing, Americans typically watch about four hours of television a day, which is a sedentary activity that has been linked to an unfit physical body. 

Cardiologist Dr. Wael Jaber, the author of a recent study concerning mortality and physical fitness, told CNN that "being unfit should be considered as strong of a risk factor as hypertension, diabetes and smoking — if not stronger than all of them." Jaber claimed the results of the study were shocking, even to him, as the death-associated risk for more sedentary participants was 500 percent higher than the most physically fit participants.

Health problems associated with smoking, which causes a wide range of damage to the body, include heart and lung disease, COPD, and immune system disorders (via CDC). Although being sedentary has not been proven to cause certain conditions that smoking can, both smoking and sitting are shown to be harmful to your health.