The phrase "sitting is the new smoking" is often used to draw attention to the health risks associated with prolonged sitting, particularly in today's sedentary lifestyle where many people spend long hours sitting at their desk or in front of screens.
Smoking is a well-known risk factor for a wide range of health issues, including cancer, heart disease, and lung disease. The harm caused by smoking is largely due to the toxic chemicals found in tobacco smoke, which can damage cells and tissues in the body over time.
While sitting is not inherently harmful, it is the lack of physical activity that often accompanies prolonged sitting that can lead to negative health outcomes. Thus, the phrase "sitting is the new smoking" is used to raise awareness about the importance of reducing sedentary time and increasing physical activity levels for overall health.
Research has shown that sitting for long periods of time is linked to an increased risk of a number of health problems, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain types of cancer . In another study, the results indicated long sitting times were associated with exhaustion during work days, lower job satisfaction, hypertension, and musculoskeletal disorder symptoms in the shoulders, lower back, thighs, and knees of office workers .
In Singapore, around half the population (47.7%) are reported to have sedentary behaviours and 17% of the population do not meet the minimum physical activity requirements by World Health Organisation .
In summary, while sitting for long periods of time may not be as harmful as smoking, it is still important to be aware of the health risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle and incorporate more physical activity into your daily routine.
Here are some tips on how to reduce sedentary time and increase physical activity in your daily routine!
1. Take frequent breaks
If you have a desk job or spend a lot of time sitting, take frequent breaks to stand up, stretch, and move around. Try to stand up and move around for at least a few minutes after every hour of being seated.
2. Use a standing desk
Consider using a standing desk or a desk that allows you to alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day.
3. Allocate physical activity into your leisure time
Instead of spending your leisure time watching TV or using your phone, go for a walk or bike ride, take a dance class, or play your favourite sport!
4. Set goals
Set goals for yourself to increase physical activity and reduce sedentary time. For example, aim to take 10,000 steps per day or to engage in moderate-intensity physical activity for at least 30 minutes each day.
We often find ourselves being glued to our desk while working and most of our sedentary time can be attributed to sitting during work. Try doing some exercises and stretches at your desk to reduce sedentary time! Some examples are chair squats, shoulder blades squeeze, and standing while stretching your quadriceps.
6. Don’t miss out on incidental physical activity!
Incidental physical activity refers to the physical activity that occurs as a result of everyday activities or tasks, rather than planned exercise or structured physical activity. Some ways to increase incidental physical activity include walking to meeting rooms or lunch, cycling to work, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, cleaning the house, and playing with children or pets.
Remember, even small changes can add up and make a big difference in your overall physical activity levels and health. Let’s take the first step in breaking up sedentary time and start moving more!
About the author
Shang You is the Wellbeing Intern at Actxa Wellness and he is a final year student from NTU Sports Science & Management. An active learner who is highly interested in fitness and wellness related content, he hopes to be able to share his learnings to help others. The great outdoors is Shang You's passion as he participates competitively in various sports such as football, softball, and baseball5. If you are on the road, you may even find him going for therapeutic joy rides on his motorcycle!
 Katzmarzyk, P. T., Powell, K. E., Jakicic, J. M., Troiano, R. P., Piercy, K., Tennant, B., & 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee. (2019). Sedentary behavior and health: update from the 2018 physical activity guidelines advisory committee. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 51(6), 1227.
 Daneshmandi, H., Choobineh, A., Ghaem, H., & Karimi, M. (2017). Adverse effects of prolonged sitting behavior on the general health of office workers. Journal of lifestyle medicine, 7(2), 69.
 Lau, J. H., Nair, A., Abdin, E., Kumarasan, R., Wang, P., Devi, F., ... & Subramaniam, M. (2021). Prevalence and patterns of physical activity, sedentary behaviour, and their association with health-related quality of life within a multi-ethnic Asian population. BMC Public Health, 21, 1-13.