“Sitting is the new smoking” is a phrase that has taken the internet by storm for some time now. Indeed, most people know that sitting for lengthy periods each day is not ideal – its effect likened to that of smoking in terms of how it can negatively impact our health over time.

Safe Work Australia (SWA) reminds us that sitting is a sedentary behavior that slows metabolism and results in the pooling of blood, thereby implicating blood pressure, blood glucose levels, and overall cardiovascular health.

While Watson sees patients who are typically already experiencing pain, Chetan Khanna, an occupational therapist and workplace ergonomic consultant has clients who are aiming to prevent it. At Ergonomic Solutions Australia, he is helping families to establish the correct study set up in the home so that children are learning good postural habits from a young age.

Hearing this new health message, some people have begun to avoid sitting entirely. Sales of standing desks have skyrocketed according to Professor Wendy Brown. With some people now standing for the entirety of their 9 to 5 working days, complaints of sore joints and muscles have also begun to skyrocket.

Should we be avoiding sitting entirely?

Brown argues that it is not actually a question of whether standing is better than sitting. Ironically, they are both as detrimental as each other. People have misinterpreted the trending phrase entirely, the message being that we need to break up long periods of static posture no matter what it is. She argues that the real issue is that we need to move more and establish a healthy balance between activity and sedentariness in all aspects of our lives.

SWA states that “more than seven hours overall sedentary behavior per day is likely to be detrimental to health and therefore considered excessive”. The importance of regularly taking a break from sitting (or standing statically) is highlighted by the fact that for most office workers, this “excessive” is the norm. Indeed, it is argued that not only is this beneficial for our physical health, but necessary to remain “intellectually healthy” as physical activity “helps (s) ideas to flow” (Stern, 2017).

How can we break up the time we spend in the same position?

It is recommended that we take a break from sitting every hour to walk and/or stretch in the opposite direction, such as leaning back a few times in standing. When sitting, it is important to be aware of our posture and to sit in a chair that supports the natural curves of the spine, particularly in the low back. Slouch sitting for long periods is not recommended. Sitting with good posture reduces the amount of stress placed on facet joints and discs in the spine, which can often be a source of pain when the natural curves are reversed over long periods of time.

SWA recommends that as well, regular seated exercises can be performed to promote circulation such as under desk cycling, ankle pumps, and shoulder shrugs. They also suggest avoiding unnecessary time spent in sedentary positions where possible such as when traveling to work, walking to the station rather than driving.


knowledge … self-management … prevention