Why Sitting Is The New Smoking: An Animated Explanation

In recent years, 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 (watch 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 years 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.

Note: An ear­li­er ver­sion of this post appeared on our site in 2015.

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

This Is Your Brain on Exer­cise: Why Phys­i­cal Exer­cise (Not Men­tal Games) Might Be the Best Way to Keep Your Mind Sharp

Play­ing an Instru­ment Is a Great Work­out For Your Brain: New Ani­ma­tion Explains Why

What’s a Sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly-Proven Way to Improve Your Abil­i­ty to Learn? Get Out and Exer­cise

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.