I learned this phrase (“sitting is the new smoking”) from Galen Cranz, with whom I taught a class called Office of the Future in 2001. We agreed that sitting was bad. I believed that sitting was bad because I discovered that if I stood a great deal, I slept better. A recent review:
A study published in the journal Diabetologia in November 2012 analyzed the results of 18 studies with a total of nearly 800,000 participants. When comparing people who spent the most time sitting with those who spent the least time, researchers found increases in the risks of diabetes (112%), cardiovascular events (147%), death from cardiovascular causes (90%) and death from all causes (49%).
I wonder whether any effect of sitting would remain after adjustment for quality of sleep. Maybe those who sat less slept better, as I did. Epidemiologists haven’t yet grasped the importance of sleep — part of an overall failure to realize that the immune system matters. Whether or not you sleep well is surely as important as whether or not you smoke. Here is a study that connects poor sleep and heart disease.
At a recent conference, I foolishly sat a lot more than usual. Maybe I sat for 7 hours two days in a row. After the first day I woke up with a minor muscle spasm in my lower back that went away. After the second day, I woke up with a really bad muscle spasm in my lower back and could barely move most of the day. Maybe my sitting muscles are weaker than other people’s. Maybe eating more sugar than usual (sugar is inflammatory) and less flaxseed than usual (flaxseed is anti-inflammatory) also contributed to the problem.