Image of woman walking and avoiding a sedentary lifestyle.

Why a sedentary lifestyle is as dangerous as smoking


October 18, 2019

A sedentary lifestyle can lead to dire medical consequences. Here’s what you might be risking — and how you can get on the right foot to fitness.


We sit in our cars for our commutes, at our desks during work, or at home on the sofa while watching our favorite shows, reading a book or scrolling through our phones. The bottom line is that Americans are sitting too much, and this sedentary lifestyle is terrible for our health.

According to a report conducted by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25 percent of U.S. adults sit for more than eight hours a day. Also, 44 percent don’t engage in moderate to vigorous exercise at all during the week.

You’ve likely heard the phrase “sitting is the new smoking.” That’s because sitting for more than eight hours a day increases a person’s risk of premature death or developing chronic diseases by 10 to 20 percent, according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health. The dangers of sitting aren’t equivalent to smoking, which actually doubles one’s risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and some cancers, but the point is, both have significant health consequences.

According to the American Cancer Society, it took three to four decades from the release of the 1964 Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health, which detailed the impact of smoking on our bodies, for lung cancer death rates to decline. We’re just starting to understand the way sitting affects health, and it’s time to take action.

You don’t have to go to CrossFit daily or train for a marathon to leave the sedentary lifestyle behind. Getting even 150 to 299 minutes of physical activity per week can reverse the risks for premature death that are associated with sitting for eight hours a day.

Try these easy-to-implement options to become more active — and eliminate your sedentary lifestyle.


Watch your shows on the move

Has binge-watching Netflix or Hulu become an evening habit? Do it on a treadmill or an elliptical machine. You can place your own equipment in front of a TV or computer monitor and indulge in your shows while you walk or run. Your local gym likely has WiFi, so you can use your tablet for viewing if other options aren’t available.


Walk throughout your workday

If you’re a desk jockey, the hours you work are one of the biggest contributors to your time spent sitting. Ask your company for a treadmill desk or even a standing desk to burn more calories. You can also walk to work if you live close by, take a lunchtime stroll, or get in a few short jaunts throughout the day. Try walking the dog for 10 minutes in the morning, grabbing a 10-minute walk during a coffee break, and then strolling for another 10 minutes with the pooch post work. If you work from home, cruise around the block between tasks.


Join a group

Exercise can go from feeling like a chore to something you look forward to if you’re doing it with friends. It can also be a great way to get to know new people. Form your own crew or check your neighborhood’s social media pages for any local walking groups. You can also join a couch-to-5K program in your community and meet others who are just starting out.


Take a class

Classes like yoga flow, indoor cycling, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), boot camps, kickboxing and more can be a lot of fun and spur motivation. If you’re new to an activity, look for beginner or all-level options. If you enjoy the class, make it a regular weekly commitment. Form a habit that replaces some of that time spent sitting.