I must admit when I first read this line I thought, wait a minute, sitting is everybody’s smoking/problem.
Then I considered what the author had to say: “Sitting is so prevalent and so pervasive that we don’t even question how much we’re doing it. And, everyone else is doing it also, so it doesn’t even occur to us that it’s not okay. In that way, I’ve come to see that sitting is the smoking of our generation” (Nilofer Merchant in Harvard Business Review, January 14, 2013)
Good point, I thought. We have been sitting on the job and during our time off / entertainment activities for so long that it is the norm.
So, now what? Now that the problem has been identified, can we change our collective behavior? How long will it take? Can it be changed in millennials’ lifetime?
Consider smoking itself. There was a time when smoking was so pervasive no one thought about it. Then the health problem was identified and anti-smoking efforts launched. Smoking was reduced to 15% of Americans now from 46% then. How long did it take? Try 50 years from the Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking detailing the problem in 1963. That’s two and a half generations gone by to change a collective behavior.
Things get murkier when we have to actually take action to improve health. Dr. Kenneth Cooper’s research in 1979 demonstrated the health improving implications of moderate exercise. Almost 2 generations later and 20% of Americans participate in exercise the recommended 45 minutes three times a week.
Then again Pilates, yoga, reflexology and massage—body improving endeavors all—have grown to be industries.
Eating patterns have changed. Processed foods and breakfast cereals are losing out to fresh foods and less carbohydrate-fueled breakfasts. Many take vitamins and shop natural food stores.
It’s just this bite-sized approach that gives us a chance to change sitting habits. It’s standing up as a nutrient with moving an even more nutritious piece of health. No sweating it out after a drive to the gym.
Can we do it? Can the collective we get motivated to give our bodies what they need to be healthy?
So, millennials, the ball is in your court. How will you deal with the "smoking" of your generation?