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Sitting Too Much is as Bad as Smoking

From the Show: Train Your Body
Summary: Diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke and more are all health risks of inactivity.
Air Date: 1/13/15
Duration: 10
Host: Melanie Cole, MS
Guest Bio: Jordon Metzl, MD
Dr Metzl back coverJordan D. Metzl, MD ( is a sports medicine physician at Hospital for Special Surgery, America’s premier orthopedic hospital located in New York City. Regularly voted among New York’s top sports medicine doctors by New York magazine, Dr Metzl takes care of athletic patients of all ages and lectures and teaches extensively both nationally and internationally.

With a practice of more than 20,000 patients, Dr. Metzl is widely known for his passion for sports medicine and fitness. His focus is to safely return athletes to the playing field of their choice and to keep them there. In addition to his busy medical practices in New York City and Old Greenwich, Connecticut, Dr. Metzl is the author of the bestselling titles The Exercise Cure (Rodale 2014) and The Athlete's Book of Home Remedies (Rodale 2013) and has also authored three other books including The Young Athlete (Little Brown). Dr. Metzl is also the medical columnist for Triathlete Magazine. His upcoming book entitled Run Your Best Life is expected in 2015 (Rodale).

His research interests include the treatment and prevention of running related injury, the effectiveness of preventive wellness programs, and the prevention of youth sport injury.

Dr. Metzl appears regularly on media programs including the Today Show, on radio including National Public Radio (NPR) and in print media including the New York Times, discussing the issues of fitness and health. In addition to his busy medical practice and academic interests, he practices what he preaches.

Dr. Metzl created the Ironstrength Workout, a functional fitness program for improved performance and injury prevention that he teaches in fitness venues throughout the country. The workout is featured on where it has been performed by more than 9 million athletes around the world.

A former collegiate soccer player, 31-time marathon runner and 12-time Ironman finisher, he lives, works, and works out in New York City.
Sitting Too Much is as Bad as Smoking
Related Article
Diabetes, risk of stroke, high blood pressure, and heart disease are all health risks associated with smoking, but surprising new evidence is finding that sitting can be just as bad for you, causing the same complications.

It’s About Prevention, Not Treatment
The health risks of sitting too much mostly affect those with desk jobs. Even if you go to the gym in the morning, the amount of sitting you do at work, followed by sitting in front of the TV at home, can outdo that hour of physical activity. In an effort to combat this, wild products are coming out on the market, including treadmill desks and strangely shaped chairs.

Dr. Jordan Metzl, a renowned sports medicine physician, believes the current medical system is partially responsible for rising inactivity levels. In Dr. Metzl’s experience, the worlds of medicine and fitness are usually encased in their own private entities, but “the best case is interfacing the two, where doctors prescribe exercises, and fitness professionals learn how to work in conjunction with doctors.” Where the current concept of medicine focuses on the treatment of disease, a better system would instead focus on prevention.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) seems to agree; the organization spearheaded an initiative called Exercise is Medicine that focuses on encouraging physicians and healthcare providers to include physical activity in treatment plans. According to their website, Exercise is Medicine (EIM) “is committed to the belief that physical activity is integral in the prevention and treatments of diseases and should be regularly assessed and ‘treated’ as part of all medical care.”

Fight Inactivity Throughout the Day
Luckily, inactivity is an easy habit to change. Dr. Metzl rightfully claims that exercise is the most widely available medicine, and anyone can do it whether rich, poor, old, young, fit, or unfit. There are a few other things Dr. Metzl recommends doing each day.

First, you should try to increase your NEAT profile before going into work each morning. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is the energy that’s expended in your everyday life, excluding sleeping, eating, and intense exercise. Some ways you can increase your NEAT profile is by parking farther away, adopting a dog that you’ll take on regular walks, and moving as much as possible every day. Of course, it may be more difficult to improve NEAT depending on your geographical location. Someone living in New York City, for example, may walk everywhere to work. On the other hand, someone living in Indianapolis may have a long drive to work, and things may not be so close together. It’s this second group of people that really need to work hard on improving NEAT.

Secondly, exercise each morning before work and after work if you can. One of Dr. Metzl’s favorite exercises is the plank, where you hold your body up and focus on the core. You can either drop the left or right side down, or keep it straight down the middle. Other core exercises will also help you stay limber, as will regular stretches.

Building on the previous idea, you can stretch out the problem areas at work to prevent fatigue. With a desk job, the most common sources of pain are the neck and upper shoulder area, wrists and forearms, and the lower back. Some companies encourage standing desks, but most people simply do not have that luxury. Instead, try to adjust the height of the chair, and pay attention to how your terminal is set up. If you find yourself looking down or to the side in order to view the monitor, consider moving it someplace closer to eye level. Take frequent, small breaks (feel free to use a timer) and use this opportunity to stretch out your back and shoulders.

Alonso is a long-time health and wellness advocate who loves to write about it. His writing spans the scope of blogs, educational magazines, and books, both on and offline.