It might be time to take a stand on sitting

image You may want to stand up before reading this. That’s because, according to a recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, sitting increases your chances of premature death. And no, I’m not talking about accidentally sitting on a rattlesnake or Christian Bale’s car hood. I’m talking about the normal, everyday kind of sitting we all do — at work, in the car, at the end of a long day, while playing basketball — that a group of Toronto researchers says increases our chance of health “issues” that can lead to death.

I’m no doctor, but even I know death is a pretty serious health issue.

The report was based on analysis of 47 studies of sedentary behavior, particularly the act of sitting. “Our modern world is constructed to keep people sitting down — and it’s literally killing us,” said one researcher who now travels long distance only by Segway. “I used to take the metro but people kept offering me a seat. I think they were trying to kill me.”

What researchers found most disturbing is that the amount of sitting people do during a typical day even outweighs the benefits of regular exercise. For example, if you use the rowing machine or stationary bicycle at the gym, “Go ahead and have a chili dog and cheesy fries while you’re at it,” the report concluded. “Because if you’re sitting while exercising, you’re basically canceling out any benefit — so you might as well enjoy what could be your last meal.”

Though the study was unable to determine exactly how much a person’s life span is shortened by sitting, statistics suggest the earlier in our lives that we begin sitting, the quicker our demise.

As one researcher put it, “Let’s just say, if you ever sat in a high chair or let someone pull you around in a wagon as a child, you’re lucky to still be alive.”

The study has drawn plenty of fire, including from Furniture Manufacturers Union leader Chaise Ottoman, who said a lawsuit has already been filed by a man who says his La-Z-Boy has probably taken years off of his life since getting a DIRECTV sports bundle.

“What’s next? A national recall on chairs and couches?” Ottoman said. “Obviously, we don’t plan on taking this sitting down. Not that we’re afraid of sitting down…”

Even the automobile industry, anticipating a dramatic drop in luxury car sales, has begun redesigning its vehicles to allow occupants to stand rather than sit. The first of these new vehicles, the Ford Chariot, is expected to roll into dealerships this spring.

“Whether buyers prefer something sporty or a family vehicle with room for as many as 11 standing passengers, our new Chariot is the healthy choice,” said a Ford executive, who then plugged the company’s new slogan: “Your Chariot awaits.”

Though Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has yet to weigh in on the report’s findings, rumors of a mandatory warning label informing consumers of the health risk associated with sitting have already begun to circulate. Being referred to as the “Let’s Not Stand for Sitting” labeling initiative, insiders say the warning would be required on anything that promotes the unhealthy habit of sitting.

While no official statement has been released by the Surgeon General, he did open a recent press conference by saying, “Everyone please have a seat. NO! WAIT!”

What kind of repercussions the report could have on the future remains unclear as lawmakers, health officials and human rights groups wrestle over the implications of a standing-only society.

In a recent poll, most people would prefer to just sit this one out.



(Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, is available from Port Hole Publications, or Barnes & Noble.)

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Ned's Blog

I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

53 thoughts on “It might be time to take a stand on sitting”

  1. if everyone would just break into spontaneous games of musical chairs on a regular basis, this would not be a problem at all. i’ve always said…

  2. That’s good to know Ned. You see I sometimes travel by bus and they have the front 12 feet of seats marked such that if a handicapped or pregnant person enters the bus, the seat occupants have to give up those seats. I can now feel good about myslef telling them to stand as i am only looking out for their best health. Besides (as I once heard a particulary dense acquantaince say seriously) they already get the best parking spots.

  3. And people think I’m crazy for writing while I walk on the treadmill (I have a plastic treadmill shelf that holds my laptop). Wait until they see me standing up in my car! Woo hoo!

  4. YUP… you NAILED the problem quite accurately. This is why my physical therapist created the new position of “streetwalker” for me. Watch out Poulsbo, here I come!! 😉

      1. Yes, I pet the dogs down at the waterfront, chat with their owners, and even just about fall over laughing at some of our conversations. Streetwalking has been VERY good for my health… the other health risks aside, but at 65 I don’t see the other health risks as too much of a problem. 😉

  5. Guess I’m going to die an extra early death from the 7+ hours I do of sitting every day…cello, school, homework, pixel art…I should do pushups more often haha.

  6. Speaking of toilet, I have perfected a stand-up version which I call the downhill roller. I have not worked out the clean-up protocol as yet but hey its healthier than the sit-down version

  7. First of all…OUCH. No need to be such a prick with that cactus couch. Sheesh. 🙂

    Secondly, if I stand too long my feet and ankle start to hurt. Sitting or standing, looks like I’m screwed either way. Damn it.

  8. I won’t give up my road or exercise bike. I have a hard time believing getting my heart rate up while spinning is bad for me…
    They’ll have to pull the chrome handlebars out of my cold dead hands….

  9. I, for one, would be interested in a Ford Chariot. Traffic jams would be so much more fun to navigate if one could pretend one was Yul Brynner in The Ten Commandments while one was doing it.

  10. When my husband read about sitting being bad for you a couple of weeks ago, I found it much easier to ask him to go to the store for me. I am back from my vacation in Cuba last week and see I have quite a bit of reading to catch up on. Hope you have been well Ned.

  11. I’m wondering if anyone has taken into consideration the life span of people 100 years ago who mostly made their livings on their feet:
    Farmer – 55 years (being kicked by a horse was a definite possibility)
    Butcher – 52 years (take off 3 years for those pesky sharp knives & animal horns)
    Blacksmith – 47 years (another 5 years taken off for fire hazard)
    I think our life expectancy is much higher than that now, so what do those researchers know?

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