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Sitting is the New Smoking

Even For Those Who Exercise

by Michael E. Stack

Sitting is the New Smoking, Image:

When people talk about NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis), it’s easy to think, “Well that’s just important for people who don’t exercise.” Not so fast: even exercisers can be sedentary. Think how many hours a day are spent sitting at your desk, in your car or on the couch. The reality is that even those of us who do exercise an hour per day can be quite sedentary the rest of the day.

Working out for even 6 hours a week doesn’t begin to counteract the 60 or more hours many people spend sitting during their day. Exercise certainly has its health benefits, but it’s such a small portion of your week and its influence to your health only goes so far. Health researchers have begun to use the phrase, “sitting is the new smoking.”

While that might seem extreme, it does hammer home the point that one healthy behavior (exercise) doesn’t cancel out the negative effects of another behavior (being sedentary). You probably wouldn’t think someone who exercises a few days a week is cancelling out the negative effects of smoking; so too is the case with exercise and inactivity.

Read more about NEAT
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Science backs this up; a 2017 study from researchers at Columbia University (Diaz et al) found that total time spent sitting increased mortality, independent of exercise. That means people who stayed physically active and didn’t exercise had a lower risk of mortality than people who exercised and were sedentary. The take home message for your health is clear: NEAT is as important to your health as exercise.

Michael E. Stack is CEO and Exercise Physiologist at Applied Fitness Solutions, with locations in Ann Arbor, Plymouth and Rochester Hills, MI. For more information, call 734-994-8570 or visit

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