Is prolonged sitting more dangerous than smoking?

Is prolonged sitting more dangerous than smoking?

Last Reviewed : 12/17/2020
Is prolonged sitting more dangerous than smoking?

This may sound ludicrous but sitting for longer hours has serious consequences. It causes more health hazards than smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. We may have jobs that require us to sit eight hours a day. This can significantly increase our health risk if adequate exercise is not incorporated into our daily lives.


  1. Based on a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, all-cause mortality rate increased by 48% in individuals who spend more than 4 hours of screen entertainment time per day when compared to individuals who spend less than 2 hours per day. This is independent of other risk factors for heart disease like diabetes, hypertension, smoking, and high cholesterol.
  2. Prolonged sitting kills more people than HIV. It is also more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death.
  3. The long term effects of sitting are not reversible with exercise. In addition to regular exercise, gettingup frequentlyis the mantra to reduce the adverse effects of prolonged sitting.
  4. According to the American College of Cardiology, sitting is an equivalent risk factor to smoking. It increases the risk of non-communicable diseases like obesity, diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular diseases, cerebrovascular diseases and cancers.
  5. A study has revealed that watching television for one hour will reduce the life span by 22 minutes, whereas smoking one cigarette will reduce the life span by 11 minutes on an average.
  6. American Medical Association in 2013 has recognized the effects of prolonged sitting and proposed standing working stations to the workers who are sitting for more than 8 hours per day.


% Increase in the mortality rates due to sitting


Duration of sitting

Mortality rate







>7 hours/day




If our jobs demand us to sit for several hours a day, it is pivotal to get up and move around at least every hour. It is advisable not to spend several hours at a time on screen time. Getting up and walking around frequently, is the key to reduce the risk of heart disease. Sitting for a prolongedtime also increases the risk of blood clots in the legs and lungs. Getting up frequently improves blood circulation in the legs and prevents blood clots. Although exercise reduces the risk of heart disease, prolonged sitting for several hours may negate its effects. It is strongly recommended to avoid prolonged sitting while working, driving, flying in a plane or watching entertainment screens to reduce the risk of heart disease, blood clots and overall mortality rate.




  • Emmanuel Stamatakiset al.,Screen-Based Entertainment Time, All-Cause Mortality, and Cardiovascular Events: Population-Based Study With Ongoing Mortality and Hospital Events Follow-Up. Journal of the American College of CardiologyVolume 57, Issue 3, 18 January 2011, Pages 292-299
  • Alpa V. Patel, Leslie Bernstein, Anusila Deka, Heather Spencer Feigelson, Peter T. Campbell, Susan M. Gapstur, Graham A. Colditz, Michael J. Thun; Leisure Time Spent Sitting in Relation to Total Mortality in a Prospective Cohort of US Adults, American Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 172, Issue 4, 15 August 2010, Pages 419–429,
  • Terry Boyle, Lin Fritschi, Jane Heyworth, Fiona Bull; Long-Term Sedentary Work and the Risk of Subsite-specific Colorectal Cancer, American Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 173, Issue 10, 15 May 2011, Pages 1183–1191,
  • Ekblom-Bak E, Hellénius M, Ekblom B Are we facing a new paradigm of inactivity physiology? British Journal of Sports Medicine 2010;44:834-835.


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