Is Winter Inactivity Worse Than Smoking for Your Health?

“Sitting is the new smoking.” If you read health news, this has been the phrase of the year, oft-repeated by doctors, the media, and the healthcare industry as a whole. While it’s important to take many of these buzzword-type health crises with a grain of salt, sitting really is very bad for your health. In fact, sitting is correlated highly with an increase in obesity– more so than any other factor. Even worse, sitting more than six hours a day greatly increases your risk of early death, and it now kills more people than smoking does.

With a large majority of us spending our days seated at a desk all day long, this revelation can feel especially worrying. We end up sitting far more than is recommended– more if we sit and watch tv after work, too. This gets even worse during long winter nights like we are currently experiencing. After all, winter inactivity is a well-known phenomenon. With freezing temperatures, slick roads, and early dusk, all we want to do after a long day at work is to curl up under a blanket and relax. Unfortunately, this type of seasonal inactivity harms us more than it helps.

winter inactivity, sittingHow bad is winter inactivity, really? Some people suggest that it is worse than a pack-a-day smoking habit. I am not sure if I would go that far, but sitting definitely has the same kind of long and short-term negative impact on your health. Like smoking, sitting impacts your health long after you do the damage, and this damage can’t even be reduced by a healthier lifestyle when it warms up in the spring. Some effects are permanent and will last you your entire life.
Winter inactivity definitely shares some key similarities with smoking. Both offer temporary pleasure but hurt us in the long run. both sitting and smoking can cause depression and mental fatigue, despite a common belief that they relieve stress. Both can even kill us. Smoking certainly is an awful health choice, but I would argue that neglecting to stay active this winter can be just as bad.

This winter, resist the impulse to sit around more. Exercise is important for your health all year long. Don’t pick up a nasty habit that will be difficult to kick come warmer weather. Sit less during the cold, not more. It’s time to put down the phone, bundle up, and get moving (and hey, you can even take the phone with you if that’s what’s holding you back!). Your health is the most valuable resource, so it’s not worth throwing away just because it’s cold outside.