Why sitting may be worse than smoking


Mature fitness woman doing physical activity
Mature fitness woman tie shoelaces on road. Cheerful runner sitting on floor on city streets with mobile and earphones wearing sport shoes. Active latin woman tying shoe lace before running. (Mature fitness woman tie shoelaces on road. Cheerful runner

Sitting is often touted as ‘the new smoking’, but it is unclear if it is the sitting itself or the lack of physical activity that causes the harm.

New research from the University of Sydney has examined the associations of sitting and physical activity with premature death and cardiovascular disease mortality, and estimated what level of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity, such as swimming, might offset health risks of sitting. The study’s key message is that physical activity is particularly important for people who sit a lot and that meeting the Australian public health recommendation of 150 to 300 minutes per week – equivalent to around 20-40 minutes per day on average – appeared to eliminate sitting risks.

Get moving

Replacing sitting with physical activity – but not standing – reduced mortality risk among ‘high sitters’, people who sit over six hours per day, said lead author Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis, from the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre and Prevention Research Collaboration in the School of Public Health.

“In our study, sitting time was associated consistently with both overall premature mortality and cardiovascular disease mortality in the least physically active groups – those doing under 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity per week,” Professor Stamatakis says.

“For example, people who were physically inactive and sat for more than eight hours per day had 107 per cent higher risk for cardiovascular death compared to those who did at least one hour physical activity per day and sat less than four hours.”

Physical activity doses equivalent to meeting the basic current recommendations –at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity per week – were found to reduce or effectively eliminate associations between sitting and both cardiovascular and overall mortality risk. “Any movement is good for health but physical activity of moderate to vigorous intensity – that is activities that get people out of breath– is the most potent and most time-efficient,” Professor Stamatakis says. “Exercise and sports are a great way to be active but are not the only way – walking fast, climbing stairs, and cycling to get from place to place are only some of the many opportunities everyday life offers to move and even ‘huff and puff’ sometimes.”

Swimming is also a great way to get moving with minimal impact on your body – think pool aerobics. Consider these five surprising benefits of swimming and boost your mental and physical wellbeing.



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