Sitting Is the New Smoking: Fad or Fact?

Active design is looking less like a luxury and more like a public health imperative.

Fitness blogs and mainstream media have been claiming that “sitting is the new smoking” for years. It sounds like an exaggerated claim and, depending on how you look at it, could imply more than it should: if you are thinking that the obesity epidemic is going to be solved by standing desks, you’re probably mistaken. But it might be time for building professionals to take it more seriously—especially as a way to assess our need for active design principles.

Origins of the phrase

The phrase itself is attributed to James Levine, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Mayo Clinic at Arizona State University and inventor of the treadmill desk (not exactly the most unbiased source). Ultimately, the comparison holds more weight as an analogy than it does as a literal statement of fact; estimated mortality rates from sitting alone don’t come close to the mortality rates associated with smoking.

Published January 4, 2017