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Beware: Sitting Is 'The New Smoking'
... GET UP To Add Years To Your Life

By Ann S. Utterback, Ph.D. Voice Specialist
Author, Broadcaster's Survival Guide

When I began as a voice coach, smoking was rampant in the news business. Many broadcasters smoked at their desks everyday. I became very vocal about the harmful effects of smoking, and a lot has changed on that front in the last 25 years. 

So imagine my surprise when I heard this warning: "Sitting is the New Smoking!”

Dr. David Agus, an oncologist, says that if you sit all day it can be as harmful as smoking a pack and a half of cigarettes a day. 


The reason for this is that sitting increases your risk of cancer, diabetes, obesity, deep vein thrombosis, and early death.


Reading this got me interested in researching how this could affect broadcasters and voice over artists.

I know that sitting can decrease vocal energy and limit proper breathing, but could it be more dangerous? The answer is, yes.

The most alarming data is from an American Cancer Society study that showed if you sit for more than six hours a day, your risk of premature death increases by more than 40% - even if you do aerobic exercise every day. 

That 30 minutes of aerobics doesn’t give you the payoff you wanted if you sit most of the rest of the day.

Another study shows the positive side. Sitting for less than three continuous hours a day may add as much as two years to your life.


But how can a voice over artist sitting to record, or an average news director, cut sitting down to less than three hours at a time? 

Here are some suggestions for all of us:
  • Set an alarm on your phone or computer to go off every hour. If you’re sitting when it goes off, stand up or walk around for five minutes.
  • When watching TV at home, get up during commercials and stretch.
  • Stand whenever you talk on the phone.
  • If you’re on a trip in the car or on a plane, stand and stretch every hour.
  • Wear a pedometer. Taking less than 5000 steps a day is considered sedentary.
  • Limit long meetings or do as some companies are doing and have walking meetings.
  • If you can’t walk for the meeting, try standing in the newsroom or studio. Standing is always healthier than sitting.
I don’t know what your New Year’s resolution is, but mine is to get off my you-know-what! 
Ann S. Utterback, Ph.D., is a voice specialist with more than 40 years experience and has helped hundreds of people make the most of their voices, working with broadcasters, voice over artists and podcasters around the world. An author of eight books and over 50 articles on voice, her Broadcaster's Survival Guide e-book offers more tips on dealing with holiday stress, plus advice on how to improve your voice over performance by making simple lifestyle changes.

Click for: Broadcaster's Survival Guide

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Comments (4)
Ann Utterback
3/10/2013 at 8:42 PM
I loved reading these comments. Chris, as usual, brings interesting insights and opinion. And Rick and Jason offer more ways to apply the idea of standing more to break up hours of sitting. Thanks, guys, for your thoughtful comments.
Chris Caldwell
1/24/2013 at 1:49 PM
The most alarming data is from an American Cancer Society study that showed if you sit for more than six hours a day, your risk of premature death increases by more than 40% - even if you do aerobic exercise every day. 

So I'm reading this from my "laptop" computer. I'll bet most who are reading this article are sitting down, and lots of people will probably take the 40% number on its face as meaning sitting gives an absolute 40% chance of death (which is of course ridiculous).

The actual data related to this study is available online at

The most telling part of the data is the last paragraph: "Our explanatory analyses were limited by the small sample size available."

People were less likely to sit at their jobs a few hundred years ago. Yet, the average lifespan keeps increasing.

The risk of death is not identical for everyone, everything else being equal. If my risk of death in the next three years is 10%, then a 40% increase will change my risk of death to 14%.  But suppose other lifestyle changes--unrelated to sitting--will decrease my baseline risk of death by 75% [to 2.5%], a far better option for risk reduction than simply reducing the amount of time that i sit.

It seems mainstream reporting of health research is littered with these types of articles-- always a shockingly big percentage number, and always missing any baseline.

I'm just going to live my life. Because no matter what, there's a 100 percent chance I will die someday.
One job that requires hours and hours of sitting is being an astronaut. They all seem to live pretty normal lifespans. As a matter of fact, I'm reminded of this quote from Neil Armstrong who lived to be 82:
"I believe that every human has a finite number of heartbeats. I don't intend to waste any of mine running around doing exercises. "
Rick Lance
1/23/2013 at 11:09 AM
Sitting all day also gives you a fat a**!

Actually, as many health care professionals know, wheel chair-bound patients experience a lot of complications associated with constant sitting. Such as kidney stones, bed sores, muscular atrophy, spinal problems, etc.

Be healthy... be wealthy... be safe!
Jason Bermingham
1/23/2013 at 3:36 AM
Great article, Ann!

A wake-up call for many of us in the voiceover industry, for sure.

One trick I would like to share with colleagues: I edit everything while sitting, of course, but I do STAND AND STRETCH while listening back to a final edit (and following the script) before I send each job to a client. This is a good excuse to get out of the chair, but also allows me to be productive while on my feet.

After reading your article, I plan to find even more opportunities to get stuff done while standing instead of sitting.
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