Sitting Down Is The New Smoking

“Sitting Down is the new Smoking” is a phrase coined by Dr James Levine, director of Mayo Clinic at Arizona State University.

When I was a full-time Personal Trainer, most of my clients were white collar workers, usually in the financial industry in Hongkong or Singapore. They all have very similar issues, weight gain and lower back pain from eating bad food, doing little to no activity and sitting down all day. Like literally all day. The only times they stood up was when they would go to the bathroom or walk to their car to sit down some more. Then once they got home, they would continue to sit down in front of the TV to relax.

I always wondered how these people could get to such a bad state. Can you imagine sitting down so much it starts hurting you? And then the ironic thing happened… I became victim to the same situation but much worse.

Little secret not many people know. I have been a Personal Trainer my whole life, teaching people fitness. I even fought professionally for a few years for Rawai Muay Thai. But I also had a massive passion for gaming ever since I was a kid when we got our first MS-DOS computer that had games on huge floppy discs the same size as the monitor screen.

Before the pandemic, I started a little gaming community. It began with just some friends here in Phuket and some other people I gamed with in the USA. We soon started adding more people we met online and gamed with. Fast forward through the lockdowns and massive restrictions, our little gaming Discord became a 7,000+ gaming addicted community. It became quite the side hustle, and I enjoyed every minute. But, like my previous clients, I was sitting down gaming all day, and then I was sitting down working on building the brand/community.

I fell victim to the same circumstance as they did. My back started to hurt. It felt super tight and ached all the time. But part of me didn’t care as I wasn’t teaching fitness anymore. I was making more money gaming than I ever had being a Personal Trainer, and it was 1,000x more fun. And I am not talking about cool shooting games like RUST, DayZ and SCUM. I mean geeky games like Command & Conquer, Minecraft, Eve Online and Age of Empires. Games where you are sitting down 14 to 16 hours straight.

This, plus my own inactivity due to lockdowns and closed gyms, results in me getting weight gain and back pain. It got to the point where I felt pain down my left leg, which I know means my lower back was getting so compressed it was starting to pinch my sciatic nerve. But, and here is the kicker, I was surrounded by personal trainers, wellness coaches, nutritious and physiotherapists. But did I see any like my clients used to come to see me? No, I ended up taking tramadol and opium-based painkiller to continue to sit down in front of a computer and work on growing my gaming community.

They always say, “Doctors make the worse patients” I guess it’s true with Personal Trainers and fitness. I knew what to do but didn’t want to do it. I knew who to see but didn’t want to see them. So I was in a worse position than the clients I had trained in the past and refused to accept it. But before the pandemic, I was 82kg within a year, 92kg within another year, and 110kg. Any exercise hurt, even walking up a hill, and my calves and lower back would hurt tremendously. It’s amazing how far out of shape you can get by simply sitting down all day. But to be clear, I am not under the impression that just sitting down gained me nearly 30kg in weight and back pain. However, it was also the negative lifestyle changes that covid restrictions and lockdowns kinda enforced on us.

But you will be surprised how much sitting down can affect your life more than you think. Amy Cuddy did an excellent Ted Talk about how posture affects your hormones and mood. She explains how power posing can change your hormonal level in only just a few minutes. Now, when we sit down and work, almost none of us are in good posture. Yet, sustaining these postures for many hours each day creates a muscle memory that moulds our natural and comfortable posture into these incorrect positions.