If you want to live longer, you’ll need to do so standing up

imageYou may want to stand up before reading this. That’s because, according to a recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, (trust me, I double checked the spelling on that) sitting actually 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 honestly 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.



(This column first appeared Feb. 2, 2015, as a News Media Corporation syndicated feature.)



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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...

39 thoughts on “If you want to live longer, you’ll need to do so standing up”

  1. Yes, but it’s very difficult to be hit by lightning on a golf course when you are sitting (assuming you aren’t using a golf cart or an elephant). Or falling into the Grand Canyon – did you know that 55 people have accidentally fallen into the Grand Canyon and 39 of them have been guys? I hope the study factored these considerations into its finding.

    1. Lol! And I’m sure in each case of those Grand Canyon accidents, it started with one guy standing next to another guy, who was pretending to push him over. We do that kind of stuff a lot. Which is why women generally outlive men.

  2. Well, considering I just finished setting up my brand new standing desk, I now can feel all sorts of smug and superior to you sitting folk as you recline your way to an early demise 🙂

  3. I read a study not long ago about this very thing. Sitting causes all kinds of problems and it is what both my husband and I do every day. He, more than I because he works from home and sits in front of a computer all day every day. We need to “move” more but it’s hard! We are tired at the end of the day so we “sit” and watch TV instead! How does one stay motivated? *sigh* :-/

    1. I sit a lot at the office, too, although I do cover high school sports, so I spend a lot of time walking the sidelines, basketball baselines, etc. Butt still (see what I did there?) 😉

    1. I had the same question as I was laying in bed this morning, not sleeping, because I was wondering if I was dying even faster from being in a sleeping position all night.

      1. Yikes, I hadn’t even thought of that! Okay, but what if we sleep flattened out? I mean, I’m pretty attached to my standard curled-up position, but I’d abandon it in a heartbeat for a shot at immortality. (And that’s exactly what this research means; you’ll never convince me otherwise. Science!)

        1. I’m guessing you’ll probably need to be flipped like a pancake at some point during the night if you want to get the full benefit of sleeping flat. Otherwise, immortality is out of the question.

  4. That must be the reason behind this article I read about potential airline seating not long ago – they’re simply interested in us living longer. Or at least it’ll seem that way. Based on a recent trip I think they’re trying to wean us in that direction.

  5. Thanks for the depressing news for writers, lol. I need to devise a way to suspend my computer from midair so I can stand at it all day. 🙂

  6. Ha! When you re as big as I am (6’3″ and 250 pounds) you are very leery of sitting. A totally unpublished fact of furniture making is that chairs , by government decree, only have to hold 250 pounds and if labelled otherwise, can be rated much lower. Those flimsy folding chairs in church are seldom rated at more than 200 pounds. I hit the ground a number of times in life before I came to this realization. Praise the Lord and get up off the floor. Ha! I inherited an old swivel desk chair when I was managing a flock of truck drivers. I had a driver, Jerod, who was a great guy and rarely ever screwed up. Then one day he inadvertently delivered 1/2 a store order to the wrong store = 250 miles away. I was upset but my intention was just to give him a verbal warning as he was such a excellent employee. I called him into my office and while he stood in front of my desk, i sat and began to tear a strip off of him. I was half way through my tirade when I leaned back and two of the legs on the chair broke right off. I went over backwards and landed still sitting in the chair with my head on the floor and my feet pointing to the ceiling. I saw Jerod’s head pop over my feet and he quietly asked if I was OK. He was doing an excellent job not laughing, I told him tersely that I was fine and the interview was over – he could leave. I figured I’d best get him out of the office before he burst into laughter.

    So, as you can see, I am wary of sitting and now know, thanks to your incredible research, that I will be healthier for it – if only not as many bruises.

  7. Hmm… I don’t know. The dangers of sitting have been wildly exaggerated according to a recent study sponsored by the National Association of Whoopee Cushion Manufacturers.

    Still, it’d be foolish to take chances. My boss asked to me to chair a meeting yesterday, so I had no choice but to turn round and punch him on the nose. It was self-defense, obviously.

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