“Sitting is the new smoking”. Each year, smoking kills around 39,100 Canadians. On average, people who smoke lose 9 years off of their life expectancy, and lung cancer from smoking accounts for 27% of all cancer deaths in Canada (and that’s without getting into the added phenomena of second- and third-hand smoke). So to say that sitting is the new smoking is a momentous remark indeed.
And yet it is true. Our normalized sedentary lifestyle of the twenty-first century is plaguing society with familiar ills. People who sit for more than just 4 hours a day are at an increased risk of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease; they have a 125% increased risk of events associated with cardiovascular disease and a nearly 50% increased risk of death from any cause. And the scary part? These increased risks exist regardless of how much a person exercises during the rest of the week.
But the analogy between sitting and smoking was not just created by Dr. James Levine to express the similar dire health effects of prolonged sitting. It was also coined to allude to the widespread social acceptance and practice of this new health scare, similar to the social attitudes towards smoking and its normality in the early twentieth century. A sedentary lifestyle is our norm. Students sit for around 5 hours of the school day, employees sit for 8 hours of the work day, and both children and adults retire to the comforts of their home to sit for even more hours on the couch or at the dinner table. If someone is getting up constantly at the office to walk around and stretch, eyebrows will be raised. Students are expected to sit still for entire lesson plans.
The issue isn’t just the total number of hours we sit for, but also the number of uninterrupted hours. You are at an even greater risk of the aforementioned diseases if you do not get up and walk around every once and a while. Doctors and clinical researchers recommend people walk around after 20-minute intervals of sitting. This is also beneficial for eye health as well, as it relieves the strain of constant screen time. The goal is to reduce sedentary behaviour overall, as well as to punctuate long periods of sitting with small breaks of standing.
By now you may be wondering how this is relevant to my education news blog. Well, besides from wanting to generate awareness about this social and health issue, I am also proud to say that St. Jude’s Academy cherishes our students’ health. We actually let our students get up and move around in class! And we serve the interests of kinesthetic learners because we understand how difficult it is to shackle children to desks and expect them to demonstrate the same levels of concentration and attentiveness. That is one aspect of traditional learning that is proving to be a detriment to children’s health.