The Student News Site of University of Nebraska at Kearney

The Antelope

The Antelope

The Antelope

Sitting is slowly killing you


Stationary activity considered the new smoking
By Meg Housholder

I worked for a company last summer where the employees sat at their desks all day long on a computer, in a meeting or at their desks.

There was little movement throughout the day.

I was shocked when I realized the secretary would sit at the front desk all day long without ever moving out of her seat. I never even saw her get up to use the restroom.

I’d consider myself an active individual -– I exercise four to five days a week, eat a balanced diet and stretch or do yoga at night. However, there are days when I don’t want to do anything, and 10 episodes of “Parks and Rec” later, I’m still plopped in the same spot on the couch. I still found it difficult to show up to work for eight hours and sit. I thought to myself, “How do these people sit all day?”

After my first week working, it was difficult to lie in my bed comfortably at night because my back pain was unbearable. At the risk of sounding overdramatic, I felt like I was going to die. Little did I know that was a possibility. 

I contacted my best friend, who’s a nurse. After complaining to her about my back pain and overwhelming fatigue at work, she said it was because I was sitting all day.

“Don’t you know sitting is the new smoking?” she said.

My heart soared into my throat. Did she say smoking? How could that be? People sit all the time: driving, traveling, taking notes in school, going out to nice dinners, reading and watching movies. Can sitting be as detrimental to my health as smoking a couple of cigarettes?


Sedentary behavior is consistently linked to more than 30 chronic diseases and conditions, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, deep vein thrombosis and high cholesterol. Most people who spend time sitting have a 22-49 percent greater risk of early death. Have you ever experienced tingling or numbness in your legs after sitting for a long period of time? That’s your body telling you to get up and move around. Listen to what your body needs because there’s a reason.

However, not all sitting is equal. Adults who spend less than two hours a day in front of a TV or computer screen do not experience a higher risk of death or cardiovascular disease than those who spend more than four hours a day in front of a screen. The adults who log more hours of screen time increase their risk of death from any cause by 50 percent. They also increase their risk of chest pain or heart attacks by 125 percent. Those adults who spend more time in front of a screen tend to have an inactive lifestyle and poor diet, which can lead to obesity and type-two diabetes.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t sit down and watch a movie with your girlfriends on a Friday night; that won’t kill you. However, if you’ve been sitting at work every day consistently with little to no exercise, you’re going to want to contact your doctor. You’re probably thinking well, sitting is a part of everyday life, whether we like it or not. Do I expect everyone to toss all their chairs, couches and benches in the dumpster? No, but I’m begging you to get up and move. Sixty minutes or more of physical activity a day eliminates the harms of sitting. It’s simple. If your job or lifestyle demands you to sit behind a computer screen or study in the library all day, make sure you get up every 20-30 minutes and walk around. Talk to your boss about sit-to-stand desks. Or, you could grab a box and place it on top of your desk for a DIY sit-to-stand desk.

By the third week of work, I was standing up every 10 minutes to stretch my legs. I eventually found an old box to place my laptop on to stand and work. I was more productive, had a surplus of energy and never dealt with back pain for the rest of the summer.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Antelope

Your donation will support the student journalists of University of Nebraska at Kearney . Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Antelope

Comments (0)

All The Antelope Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *