Why Sitting Is The New Smoking: An Animated Explanation

Dur­ing the past year, sit­ting has become the new smok­ing. “Past stud­ies have found,” declares a 2014 arti­cle in The New York Times, “the more hours that peo­ple spend sit­ting, the more like­ly they are to devel­op dia­betes, heart dis­ease and oth­er con­di­tions, and poten­tial­ly to die pre­ma­ture­ly — even if they exer­cise reg­u­lar­ly.” What’s the sci­ence behind this alarm­ing claim? The ani­mat­ed TED-ED video (above) begins to paint the pic­ture. But it does­n’t get into the lat­est and per­haps most impor­tant research. Accord­ing to sci­ence writer Gretchen Reynolds, a recent Swedish study pub­lished in the British Jour­nal of Sports Med­i­cine sug­gests that when you sit all day, your telom­eres (the tiny caps on the ends of DNA strands) get short­er. Which is not a good thing. As telom­eres get short­er, the rate at which the body ages and decays speeds up. Con­verse­ly, the study found “that the telom­eres in [those] who were sit­ting the least had length­ened. Their cells seemed to be grow­ing phys­i­o­log­i­cal­ly younger.”

Sev­er­al months ago, KQED radio in San Fran­cis­co aired a pro­gram ded­i­cat­ed to this ques­tion, fea­tur­ing med­ical and ergonom­ics experts. To delve deep­er into it, lis­ten below. Or click here.

Mean­while, if you have advice on how to incor­po­rate move­ment into your day, please share it with your fel­low read­ers in the com­ments sec­tion below.

And if your mind imme­di­ate­ly drifts to buy­ing a stand­ing desk, then check out our relat­ed post: Who Wrote at Stand­ing Desks? Kierkegaard, Dick­ens and Ernest Hem­ing­way Too

Fol­low us on Face­book, Twit­ter, Google Plus and LinkedIn and share intel­li­gent media with your friends. And if you want to make sure that our posts def­i­nite­ly appear in your Face­book news­feed, just fol­low these sim­ple steps.

by | Permalink | Comments (10) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (10)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • Dencon says:

    Good exple­na­tion on a very impor­tant issue.
    This is why employ­ees should be work­ing with sit and stand desk i their jobs. Then you will be work­ing in a stand­ing pos­si­tion and burn­ing a lot of ener­gy…
    In den­mark this is the biggest sup­pli­er of office fur­ni­ture, and the only tables sold are sit and stand desk: http://www.kontormoebler.dk/borde/haeve-saenke-borde.html

  • Max Banfield says:

    My the­o­ry that sit­ting is harm­ful to health “The Pos­ture The­o­ry” was writ­ten in 1980 at a time when it was extreme­ly con­tro­ver­sial because it chal­lenged the wide­ly accept­ed view that sit­ting was not a phys­i­cal activ­i­ty, so the only cause of dis­ease in seden­tary work­ers must be psy­cho­log­i­cal.
    How­ev­er, nowa­days the idea, and the treat­ment method of mov­ing and stand­ing have become wide­ly accept­ed but no-one men­tions my name, the pre­vi­ous con­tro­ver­sy.
    Many peo­ple have stolen the idea and tak­en the cred­it and no-one has paid me, yet mil­lions of peo­ple are now get­ting bet­ter health because of my research, and meth­ods.
    See here http://users.chariot.net.au/~posture/#AnimatedPostureTheoryDiagram
    and here http://users.chariot.net.au/~posture/StandingComputerPosture.html
    Max Ban­field

  • Ross says:

    so, Max, get out there and take this on man! You, men­tion want­i­ng to get paid for mil­lions of peo­ple hav­ing bet­ter health — you HAVE been paid! A lot more than you can imag­ine. Now, if you want to ‘cap­i­tal­ize’ on that, go for it, we will back you .

  • Make Your Move _ AU says:

    There def­i­nite­ly needs to be a greater aware­ness of the effects of seden­tary behav­iour and the entire cause. We’re so into tech­nol­o­gy now that we bare­ly spend time off the couch or out of bed enjoy­ing nature and get­ting phys­i­cal activ­i­ty into our day.

  • Thrilled that this is going main­stream. As a Yoga teacher in 2008 I pub­lished Dri­ve­time Yoga for com­muters & Fly time Yoga for fre­quent fliers. Still teach­ing it when­ev­er I can.

  • Bijay Agarwala says:

    It is a good educa­tive post­ing high­light­ing the seden­tary afflic­tion we are going through thanks to tech inspired habit .

  • Max Banfield says:

    To Ross — reply to your response of Octo­ber 12th 2015
    Hi thanky­ou for your sup­port.
    I made the obser­va­tion that many health prob­lems were caused by lean­ing toward a desk between 1975 and 1980.
    In 1993 I was diag­nosed with can­cer and giv­en only two months to live so I began writ­ing a book about pos­ture and sell­ing it to school and pub­lic libraries.
    I couldn’t afford to pay a typ­ist or com­put­er pub­lish­ing so I soon learned to type and use a com­put­er.
    I also began exper­i­ment­ing with writ­ing, typ­ing, and using the com­put­er on high­er desk lev­els.
    In 1997 I had coro­nary artery dis­ease due to par­tial block­age of my coro­nary arter­ies with cho­les­terol and I cured it with a mod­i­fi­ca­tion of the Pri­tikin diet.
    In 1998 I had can­cer surgery and chemother­a­py, and dur­ing that time I was stand­ing at a desk and placed the com­put­er screen at eye height, and the key­board at elbow height and found that it relieved my main symp­toms.
    I knew that I had invent­ed the world’s first stand­ing com­put­er desk, and that it’s val­ue would even­tu­al­ly be recog­nised so I pub­lished the idea under copy­right with all rights reserved in the 10th edi­tion of “The Pos­ture The­o­ry”.
    I then had more can­cer surgery, chemother­a­py and a stem cell trans­plant and a few years of side effects before recov­ery­ing.
    Dur­ing that time oth­er indi­vid­u­als would have start­ed peer review­ing the stand­ing desk idea, and found it effec­tive and began sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly steal­ing it.
    Any assis­tance you can be in get­ting me roy­al­ties for those desks would be appre­ci­at­ed.
    My only effec­tive method of stop­ping peo­ple from steal­ing my oth­er use­ful ideas at this time is to not pub­lish them.
    Thanky­ou again for your sup­port­ing com­ments.
    My can­cer diag­no­sis from 1993 can be seen here (note it is 23 years ago!) http://users.sa.chariot.net.au/~posture/CancerShirt.html
    Max Ban­field

  • Christian Hansen says:

    This is a very great arti­cle and the best expla­na­tion to all employ­ees with back hurt­ing. In our com­pa­ny we have a pol­i­cy as we stand up for 10 ten min­utes every hour and the feed-back from our employ­ees is that it helped.

  • Patty says:

    My father was a study in per­pet­u­al motion. He lived to be near­ly 92. It worked for him!

  • Stephanie says:

    Hi, it’s a nice post.Do you know?For mid­dle-school­ers, that num­ber was 1 in 25, or 470,000 total.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.