Is sitting the new smoking? ask Alberta researchers

Experts say sitting is the new, and major, public health concern. Alberta Centre for Active Living conference attendees Wednesday looked at if sitting is the new smoking.

Exercise has many benefits, but doesn’t make up for our sedentary lifestyle, say experts

Health experts are calling on Albertans to stand up more. A conference put on by the Alberta Centre for Active Living in Calgary yesterday identified sitting as a major public health concern. (CBC)

Experts say sitting is the new, and major, public health concern.

Alberta Centre for Active Living conference attendees Wednesday looked at if sitting is the new smoking.

Like many, Jonathan Bateman says he spends most of his workday parked in front of a computer.

"Especially when deadlines coming up, I do find myself stapled to this chair for the majority of the day."

The problem, according to University of Alberta physical education expert Kerry Mummery, is our bodies are designed to be hunter-gatherers.

"If we actually measured the amount of time we sit down, lie down or recline, we will find that it generally exceeds over 23 hours per day."

John Spence, of the U of A's  physical education department, says a sedentary lifestyle can lead to increased risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes.

People need to change the way they live, work and play, he says.

"It's simple, in a way — stand up more. Stand up more and just move around more."

Exercise isn't enough 

Spence says many people believe they can counteract the damage done, by exercising at the end of a sedentary day — but it doesn't work that way.

While he says working out has many health benefits it doesn't undo the damage done by hours of sitting.

"There's all sorts of other benefits from the exercise including improving cardio-respiratory fitness for instance — so you breathe better, you're able to move around more. But some of this negative impact of sitting is not influenced by that,” he said.

“That's why we think this is an important public health issue to talk about. That we want people to exercise, but we also want people to stand up more."

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