Sitting is the New Smoking

Staying active during the colder months can be difficult. With the sun setting earlier and the sun rising later, it is hard to stay motivated. This not only can be frustrating for yourself but having a sedentary winter can be detrimental to your overall health as well. Some experts claim that sitting is the new smoking, where being inactive for long periods of time can be as unhealthy as cigarette smoking.

How does a sedentary lifestyle impact your health? First, humans are built to stand upright as our cardiovascular system, bowel functioning, and circulatory systems all function better when we are standing or moving around. Other side effects of sitting for long periods of time include weakened leg and gluteal muscles, increased weight gain, hip and back problems, low mood and increased chance of chronic disease and illness such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

According to Simon Fraser University, an international study that surveyed more than 100,000 individuals from 21 countries found that people who sat for six to eight hours a day had a 12-13% increased risk for early death and heart disease. For those that sat for more than eight hours daily, that risk increased to 20%. The researchers spoke about the dangers of sitting with a quote – “Our study found that a combination of sitting, and inactivity accounted for 8.8 per cent of all deaths, which is close to the contribution of smoking”

Some ways to combat the dangers of sitting, especially during the colder months include:

  • Taking activity breaks at work (e.g., walking the halls, taking the stairs)
  • Park further away from your destination
  • Do an extra lap around the store before you start shopping
  • If you have stairs in your home, do an extra set between laundry runs
  • Do some stretching or squats while watching television

If you can get outdoors, Thunder Bay has some amazing outdoor spaces that you can walk, snowshoe, or ski on. Some places include:

  • Mission Island Marsh Conservation Area
  • Cascades Conservation Area
  • Hazelwood Lake Conservation Area
  • Mills Block Forest
  • Little Trout Bay
  • Centennial Park
  • Lappe Nordic Ski Centre

If you do use these trails, remember to walk safely and avoid icy or uneven areas, and always go with a buddy or have your cellphone handy in case of a fall or emergency.

To conclude, the dangers of sitting are serious, but the good news is, people can shift their sitting habits to get extra steps in an effort to combat health complications later on. What will you do this week to get in some extra steps?

For more information:

For more information on all questions related to heart health, please visit: or follow Northern Hearts on Facebook and Instagram (@NorthernHeartsThunderBay), where a new posting occurs every Wednesday on all things heart health.

Submitted by Kayla Waddington, Northern Hearts Program Coordinator