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  • Writer's pictureBara Vaida

Is Sitting Really the New Smoking?


Photo by Ahmad Odeah from Unsplash

I’m working on a story for a client about alignment and countering the “desk slump.” As I talked to physical therapists, I learned there is an ongoing effort to counter the myth that ‘sitting is the new smoking.’


I’m sure you all heard that story right? That sitting is terrible and we all need sit/stand desks or standing-only desks, or desks with treadmills, etc. There were hundreds of stories about this before the pandemic – including one by me in 2014!


As it turns out - as with all things related to the body - the story is more complicated. Smoking is still far worse than sitting all day.


Certainly, sitting for more than 8 hours and doing nothing at all – such as continually watching television – is pretty terrible for the body. You are increasing your risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes if you are completely inactive and only watching TV. Sitting for long periods can cause the shoulders to pull forward, squishing the ribs and abdominal muscles. It can cause spine misalignment and the potential for neck, shoulder and lower back pain.


Is a standing desk any better? You may have one at home. (I bought this one.) The idea is that standing will encourage people to move more during their day. But standing for long periods of time can also cause its own set of misalignment issues, such as ‘sway back’ with the belly coming too far forward. This can lead to other kinds of leg, back, shoulder and neck pain. Here is a story about common mistakes we make with standing desks.


So what should you do? Should you bother with a standing desk? Is it okay to sit all day? It probably won’t surprise you that the answer is less about the desk and more about what keeps you moving.


You need to move at least 60-90 minutes a day. If that isn’t possible, at minimum, move your spine every half hour. [Here’s my 4-minute video of recommended spine movements and here's a story with other movement ideas for your spine]. If you are interested in reading more about how sitting is not the new smoking, see this November 2021 story from the Guardian. If you do work at a desk, the Mayo clinic offers this ergonomically correct alignment for the body that reduces risks of spine misalignment.


And of course, take a look at my schedule and practice some yoga! Your spine will thank you.


Wishing you strength and balance.

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