Sitting is the New Smoking [Interview][Transcript]

Professor_Linda_Kenedy_Sitting_New_SmokingGuest: Professor Linda Kenedy

Presenter: Neal Howard

Guest Bio: Linda Kenedy is a professor of Practice at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. At Creighton, Kenedy teaches graduate classes in the Health & Wellness Coaching program and undergraduate classes to students in the Creighton University Healthy Lifestyle Management program. Kenedy has a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science and a master’s degree in Health Education. In addition to teaching at Creighton, Linda is a wellness coordinator for the Nebraska Educators Health Alliance and a RYT-200 yoga teacher.

Segment overview: Creighton University Professor of Practice Linda Kenedy discusses the credibility of the phrase “sitting is the new smoking”, and the current research regarding the effects of a sedentary lifestyle.

Health Professional Radio – Sitting is the New Smoking

Neal Howard: Hello and welcome to the program. I’m your host Neal Howard. Thank you for joining us here on Health Professional Radio. Today, our guest is Creighton University Professor of Practice, Linda Kenedy. She’s here to discuss the credibility of the phrase, “Sitting is the New Smoking” and some current research regarding the effects of the sedentary lifestyle. Welcome to Health Professional Radio Linda.

Linda Kenedy: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

N: Glad that you could join us today. You are a professor. Talk about your experiences there at Creighton University at Omaha Nebraska.

L: Sure. I am a professor in two different programs that Creighton University has. One is the Health and Wellness Coaching Graduate Program, and that program is an online learning experience where students get all kinds of skills, and knowledge and abilities in coaching. When they graduate the program, they’re are able to coach other individuals in their healthy lifestyle goals. The other program that Creighton has is the Healthy Lifestyle Management Undergraduate Program. Those undergrad students then are learning over the course of their 4 years that Creighton all about healthy lifestyles and not necessarily, they may become a health and wellness coaches but the program prepares them for maybe community health work, public health, worksite health. All those kinds of areas where there’s an opportunity to touch people and help them live healthier life.

N: In addition to teaching there at Creighton, you’re also a wellness coordinator for the Nebraska Educators Health Alliance and a yoga instructor. Is that correct?

L: Yes, that is correct. The Educators Health Alliance here in Nebraska is the health plan that ensures the majority of educators across the States. My company does the wellness portion of that plan. We do staff wellness for thousands of educators across the State of Nebraska.

N: With the recent, the last 10, 12, maybe even 20 years going back where employers are giving incentives for a healthy lifestyle as far as your insurance premiums are concerned, I see people walk in the track and all kinds of things like that at lunch. A sedentary lifestyle of course, isn’t the most healthy of lifestyles but the phrase, “Sitting is the New Smoking”, “Orange is the New Black”, that sort of thing. What is sitting? How can a sedentary lifestyle be equated to smoking? Smoking is horrendous to say the least but, while you sit and smoke right?

L: Right. Well, there’s a couple of different ways you kind of interpret that phrase. The one thing, it definitely get people’s attention. But this, “Sitting is the New Smoking”, years and years ago, like my parents, grandparents depending how old you are, maybe great grandparents, they smoke. That was a very common behavior for people to deal. They smoked in the office. They smoked in restaurants. They smoked everywhere. Nobody really knew it was so detrimental to health and tell the research kind of caught up with it. The public health messages are coming out that smoking is really bad for you. It can kill you, etcetera. Now where we are today with, smoking is not very good for us, we know that now. Sitting is evolving in the same way. Our bodies are put together to be active, to be up and moving for most of the day. And then, as evolution has, as we have evolved, we become more of a sitting society rather than a moving society. We don’t have to do a lot anymore, every day to get our food, to communicate, it’s all raw sitting. What’s happening now is that we’re seeing that the research is showing that the sitting is really detrimental to our health and some of it even showing that it can be even worse than smoking on our health because we’re just not moving. We’re now seeing that it’s that sitting is so detrimental to our health for a number of reasons. But it can lead to high blood pressure, joint issues, back issues, cardiovascular disease, obesity, can even lead to depression. So it’s really something that needs to be brought awareness. The awareness so it means to be brought to the forefront so people can start to understand just how much they’re sitting during the day because again, we’re seeing that up to 13 hours a day people are sitting. They don’t even realize that.

N: I see everyone sitting. I see people sitting in their cars, in their trucks, on their bikes, at their office, at school, on planes, every place we’re all sitting. What do you suggest we do as far as smoking, we evolved from the cigarettes down to the vape, the vaper shops and what not, we had the pills and the gums and the patches. How do we not sit and most of our professions sitting seems to be most of what we do?

L: You’re right. And I think the biggest piece that I’ve noticed whenever I’ve talked about this or whenever I teach it in my classes at Creighton is that awareness, that you literally don’t even know because it’s so accepted in our society to sit all the time. Once I start talking about the fact that you get up in the morning, you get ready for work, most of us, get in the car, we drive to work. We walk into our office, we sit at our desk. We go home, we sit down to dinner and then we sit in front of the TV because we’re exhausted from our day, sitting apparently. That awareness piece, when people start to think about it and then, even during the day, you go to a meeting at somebody’s office, “Come on in, sit down.”. You go to doctor’s appointment, you sit and wait, then you sit and wait in the exam room. We don’t even realize how much we become a culture of sitting. So awareness is the first piece of that. Then, at the work site, it’s just starting that change basically on a grass-roots level to try to get people to do more standing meetings, shorter standing meetings, walking meetings, taking a long way to the copier or to the restroom, not going directly there, may be making a lap at the cubicles, taking stairs if there’s office stairs somewhere, going up and down the stairs. Just getting up at least once an hour from your desk and moving is a great place to start.

N: Okay. I’ve got a job where I am sitting all day in front of the computer. I might walk to the coffee machine 3 or 4 times a day which is just around the corner. I might leave the office for lunch and take a walk down the street. I’m going to the gym at least 3 times a week. Is the gym enough to offset my sitting? Or should I incorporate as you say getting up at least an hour throughout the day in addition to whatever exercise I’m undertaking?

L: That’s a great question. Yes, that’s not enough to offset it and that’s probably the most, … raising this part of this whole discussion is that our hour at the gym, then doesn’t give us an ‘okay’ to sit on the couch for the rest of the time. We have to keep moving throughout the day. Yes, it’s something that you have to start incorporating in a day, activity wise. I kind of classify those differently. So exercise at the gym, that’s where maybe you’re on a machine, you’re lifting weights, doing all that. Activity is movement throughout the day. We can’t just go to the gym and say, “Check that up we’re done.”. I get to sit the rest of time you have to keep adding that moving in throughout the day. Whatever that looks like for you.

N: I’m going to date myself, it was back in the early to mid-80’s that I was introduced to ergonomically designed furniture office, furniture and things to that nature. Are you suggesting that maybe incentives to make office furniture and industrial furniture less comfortable in order to maybe prompt people to get up and move to alleviate. It seems that this would be such a huge undertaking to reverse. Well I guess would be that just as huge and link it to reverse the process as it was for smoking wouldn’t it?

L: It could be. Although, I’d like to think that maybe sitting isn’t addictive. So it might be. (laugh)

N: It feels really good.

L: It does feel good. It might be a little easier to change. Although, I’ve been doing this for over 20 years in the wellness field and changing house behaviors is very, very challenging for a lot of people. That’s the original question about office furniture, standing desk for something that has slowly starting to creep into the work place where you can raise and lower the desk, can still sit at your desk. But, it has the ability to be raised so you can stand for periods throughout the day which is very helpful for all kinds of things. That is a good place to start in the office as well. Just getting up and having that ability to work at your computer while standing, as opposed to having to sit, because we do need to get the work done, but if we’re able to make it so we’re a little more up right for more of the day, that’s helpful.

N: Basically in wrapping up, changing your routine at work and at your home when it relatea to sitting and being sedentary is the key to reversing or at least beginning to reverse possibly the obesity epidemic that we seem to be up against in the United States just as one benefit of not sitting so much. Is that correct?

L: You are correct, absolutely. And I think, it’s not that you can’t sit and watch TV, just get up during the commercials or do some core work while you’re watching. Don’t just sit there for 3 hours and watch TV. Yes, you are very correct.

N: Where can our listeners go and get some more information about the Creighton University Healthy Lifestyle Management Program?

L: If they go the Creighton University website, it’s all on there, all the details about it. It’s a great program to check out for sure.

N: Thank you for talking with us today Linda.

L: Thank you. I enjoyed it.

N: You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host Neal Howard. In talking with Creighton University Professor of Practice, Linda Kenedy. We’ve been discussing the credibility of the phrase, “Sitting is the New Smoking”. Transcripts and audio of this program are available at and also at You can subscribe on iTunes, listen in and download at SoundCloud.

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