Sitting is the New SmokingPosted by: Trina Hackensmith | Posted on: September 22, 2016
It seems that at every conference I attend, webinar I watch, or article I read that remotely deals with “health”, someone states that “Sitting is the new smoking”. I’ve been thinking a lot about that statement and what it means in my life personally and at work.
I grew up in a household that was pretty much “smoke free”. My grandmother, who lived with us for several years, was the only adult I knew who smoked. I was raised with the notion that smoking was a bad habit. I absolutely adored “Momo” but often hid her cigarettes and begged her to quit. Her nicotine addiction was what ultimately led to her death, much sooner than it should have been. I’ve never smoked or even had the desire to try it.
But I sit. I love to just sit. My favorite thing to do during leisure time is to read. And what do I do when I’m reading? I sit. I travel a ton for business so I sit in the airport lounge, I sit in airplanes, and I sit in hotel rooms. So if sitting is the new smoking, what is all of this sitting doing to my over health—present and future? And how can I combat the ill effects of a sedentary lifestyle?
According to the CDC, smoking harms nearly every organ in your body and can lead to premature death (COPD and cancer), cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, and even affect the health of your teeth and gums. That sounds pretty bad. If sitting is the new smoking, what’s the effect on my body from all of that sitting?
Sitting and a sedentary lifestyle often leads to obesity. An article in the Journal of American Medicine (February 26, 2014 Vol. 311 No. 8) reports that nearly one third of all Americans are obese. Obesity, like smoking, can give rise to chronic conditions including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. Sounds a lot like the effects of smoking.
So what am I doing to combat chronic sitting in my life and what are we doing at Lyon Software? Personally, I’ve started to work out more and make small changes that I hope will have a big impact. I work out with a trainer once a week (with my travel schedule that’s all I can fit in!), walk to the airport gate instead of taking the tram, and take the stairs whenever I can. One trick to getting in more stairs… I request a room on a high floor away from the elevator (yes, for the peace and quiet!) and then I take the stairs to and from my room whenever I don’t have luggage. I bring my book to the gym and read while I’m on the treadmill. I eat “clean” and drink a lot of water. Oh, and I travel with exercise bands in case the hotel doesn’t have a workout room.
As a company, we at Lyon Software are also doing what we can to encourage our employees to make healthy, smart choices. We’ve gotten rid of most of the sugary snacks (everyone needs an ice cream break once in a while!) and replaced them with raw almonds and cashews. There’s always plenty of fruit conveniently placed in the common areas and veggies available in the refrigerator. The office also purchases stand up desks (I love mine!) for anyone that wants one. The Sales and Marketing staff requested exercise balls and now uses them as chairs. Work that core!
We also reward walking. We’ve instituted a voluntary “walk for PTO” program. Once a day, an employee can earn a sticker for walking a lap around the office complex. Fifteen stickers equals one hour of PTO. Year to date, our employees have earned approximately 44 hours of PTO just by walking! We encourage group walking for team building and camaraderie.
For years I congratulated myself for never smoking. On health surveys I took pride in being able to check the “Never” box when asked about tobacco use. Can I say the same thing about “sitting”? Of course we all have to sit down sometimes. But I’m hopeful that taking to heart that “sitting is the next smoking” will revolutionize the way I think about health—my health and that of all of the employees at Lyon Software.
Pictured: Lyon Software VP, Dave Lyon, utilizing standing desk (left) and the Lyon Software “Walk for PTO” tracking chart (right)