You 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.)