Sitting is the New Smoking


You have probably heard this headline and thought like most of us “seriously?” but on digging deeper it does seem to have some truth behind it. A scary thought if like me you are working in a sedentary job and enjoy the odd bit of TV too in the evening!

The line was coined by Dr James Levine, director of the Mayo Clinic in the US who in an interview with the LA Times said “Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death. The chair is out to kill us.”

The health risks associated with sitting all day include heart disease, various types of cancer, obesity, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and increased blood pressure. This is really worrying as more and more people are working longer hours at their desks, commuting in cars, trains or busses, then collapsing down in front of the TV before going to bed, on a regular basis.

So, what can we do to combat this, and what can employers do to help their employees live longer?

I’ve decided to take action and sign up for an initiative in our workplace to try out a standing desk. I’m excitedly awaiting its arrival and discovering the benefits of spending at least some of my day standing.  It’s a bit hard to imagine how it will all work – do I stand for an hour then sit for an hour? Will moving my laptop and stuff be a deterrent or just become part of my more active lifestyle? Will I need to change my shoes for the standing bit? How soon will I see results?

Standing desks are becoming more and more popular with many organisations having them as a standard option. In Denmark the government has mandated that all office workers must have a height adjustable desk and hopefully this will be rolled out to other countries including Ireland in the future. Unfortunately, they can be expensive so like my workplace, people are getting creative in developing and making their own versions!

Of course, there are other ways to combat sitting all day but they take more effort. Employers should be encouraging employees to get up from their desks, take breaks at lunchtime, walk to and talk to colleagues instead of emailing, stand up when on the phone, but we all know how easy it is to get stuck into work and end up stuck to your seat.

It’s a little ironic that Sitting is the new Smoking, considering it’s the smokers who get up off their seats more than anyone else!

Updates on my Standing Desk experience will follow.


Ingrid O’Sullivan, Operations Manager