Obesity, Smoking, and Sitting Disease -Which is Worse?

The healthcare costs of the United States and the world are rising and this increase remains largely due to adverse lifestyle decisions. The factors are many but obesity, smoking, and physical inactivity (also referenced as sitting disease) seem to go to the top of many lists.

A recent study from the New England Journal of Medicine found that the world’s obesity rates over the past three decades have doubled in 73 countries and risen in most other nations. It is now estimated that 30 percent of the world’s population is overweight or obese and 10 percent clearly obese. Not surprisingly, the U.S. leads in childhood obesity and greatest number of obese adults. Excess weight was responsible for over 4 million deaths in 2015, largely due to heart disease and diabetes. The prevalence and disease impact from an abnormally high BMI is now clearly a worldwide problem.

An earlier study from the Mayo Clinic by James Moriarty and colleagues found that both smoking and obesity were independent risk factors for higher health care costs and that over time obesity added more health care costs than did smoking. The adverse health effects of smoking and obesity impact so many areas that an accurate list is another topic.

Sitting disease, or marked inactivity on your rear for more than 4 to 6 hours per day, leads to an increased risk for metabolic syndrome, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and colon and breast cancer. People who sit for 6 or more hours per day are likely to die 15 years sooner than someone who sits for 3 hours or less. The risk of a heart attack with prolonged sitting is the same as that for a smoker. The most concerning factor was the finding that if you sit for over 6 hours a day, you cannot mitigate the negative effects by 30 minutes of daily exercise! Therefore, get up every hour and don't give up your 30 minutes of exercise a day.

So, do we have a winner? Likely not, as all three seem to be equally bad and worldwide.

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