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Sitting Down vs Smoking Cigarettes: A comparison

Heart, Men's Health, Age related illnesses, Women's Health | October 15, 2014 | Author: The Super Pharmacist

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Sitting Down vs Smoking Cigarettes: A comparison

We may often think of smoking as one of the most modifiable factors when it comes to poor health and risk of early death. However, another factor that can contribute to a range of health problems and even early mortality, but is often overlooked, is a sedentary lifestyle. 

Sedentary Lifestyle

The amount of time people spend in a seated position is increasing steadily in the developed world. This may stem from a combination of socioeconomic and economic factors; a sizeable proportion of the workforce is employed in sedentary positions. These are defined as occupations in which standing and walking are not necessary or encouraged, such as office-based work, information-technology based occupations, and many other businesses. Occupations that require a higher level of activity and movement (e.g. construction, manufacturing, agriculture) are currently in decline or in the first stages of revival.

Another factor contributing to this sedentary lifestyle is the combination of social and industrial advances that have accumulated into a chronic lack of energy expenditure in performing household tasks or seeking entertainment.

In the case of the latter, entertainment and media that lend themselves to sitting for long periods are among the most sophisticated and desirable. For example, an average television set is switched on for seven hours a day, a figure that has held true since the 1970s. Actual television-watching is said to have decreased in the last ten years, but this is probably influenced by the rise of internet-based media and alternative media delivery.


The ramifications of this are that time spent sitting down, in both professional life and leisure time, has increased dramatically. This increasingly popular sedentary lifestyle has been linked to the 'obesity epidemic' and also to an increased risk of death. This is due to the 'positive energy balance' (or calories taken in, but not expended in the course of physical or occupational activity) that may contribute to increases in body fat.

Chronic disease

Prolonged sitting has been proposed by researchers as an independent or singular factor contributing to the increased probability of conditions such as type II diabetes and coronary artery disease.  An analysis of the incidence of disease or death in relation to hours of television watched indicated that the risk of all-cause mortality increased in response to 3 or more hours per day. This also indicated that for every two hours of television-viewing a day, the risk of incidence per 100,000 people increased by 176 for type II diabetes, 38 for cardiovascular disease and 104 for all-cause mortality.

The English Longitudinal Study of Aging (10,426 participants) found that the duration of physical inactivity was directly proportional to increasing cardiovascular mortality, all-cause mortality and cancer risk for men and women aged 50 years or more. It also concluded that even small increases in physical activity had a positive effect on these risks.

Additional factors impacting on life quality

Prolonged sitting may be associated with additional factors impacting on life quality, including:

  • Lower back pain
  • Reduced lung capacity (a marker of decreased cardiovascular fitness)
  • Increased blood pressure, which may increase the risk of heart disease
  • Reduced hand-grip strength (which may indicate an increased risk of peripheral artery disease and muscle degeneration)
  • Thromboembolism: This is a condition in which blood clots form in a vein or artery, and may then cause serious disorders or even death depending on the organ or body part they may migrate to. An example of clot-related disorder is stroke, in which a blood clot 'blocks' the blood supply to the brain.

Many studies have concluded that physical activity throughout life is proportional to life expectancy. For example, a study comparing 2363 elite male athletes to 1657 'normal' healthy men over approximately 50 years found that life expectancy for the althetes was increased by 5-6 years.


SmokingAnother lifestyle factor associated with high mortality and cardiovascular risk is smoking. 
Smoking is significantly associated with the risk of coronary heart disease and the onset of other disorders.

In 2003, the World Health Organisation implemented a framework to improve tobacco control worldwide. As a result, emergency patients presenting with acute cardiovascular events (i.e. heart attacks) are reported as having been reduced. 

Smoking cessation is associated with improved survival in patients diagnosed with coronary artery disease.

Tobacco smoke is associated with a wide range of factors impacting on longevity and/or disease risk. These include:


Smoking is viewed as a major factor in the development of lung cancer. The inhalation of tobacco smoke is associated with a high probability of tumour promotion due to the many ingredients in cigarettes that may damage DNA in a way that increases the tendency of cells to 'transform' into cancerous cells. Continuing to smoke after cancer diagnosis is associated with increased mortality and decreased survival. In addition, this is associated with the increased risk of complications resulting from radiotherapy, and may reduce the efficacy of chemotherapy.

Infant mortality or morbidity

Smoking (or environmental exposure) during pregnancy is associated with the risk of life-threatening disease or death of the newborn, and may also increase the probability of disease into adulthood due to long-term changes in certain genes.


A recent study suggests a causative link between regular or long-term smoking and the increased risk of suicide, in comparison with those who had ceased smoking.

Mortality in Multiple Sclerosis Patients

Multiple sclerosis is a progressive neurological disorders characterised by
chronic pain and motor problems.

A study including over a thousand patients found that the patients who were current smokers had an 84% greater rate of death compared to healthy controls, and that the risk of death of patients who smoked was significantly greater that that of patients who had stopped or had never started smoking. Australia's best online pharmacy


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