Public Service Announcement: Sitting won't kill you after all

Public Service Announcement: Sitting won't kill you after all
We’ve been hearing it for years: sitting is the new cigarettes, the new cancer, the new gluten.

Every couple of months, a new study (and then countless blog posts) have confirmed: Sitting. Will. Kill. You.

But, if you’re sick of the smugness of your standing-desk colleagues and their gluten-free pizza; if you’re killing yourself with a desk and chair while you read this; if you just want a little bit of confirmation bias to make your day a little easier; a new study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology by researchers from the University of Exeter and University College London concludes that sitting is not associated with an increased risk of death.

“Sitting time was not associated with all-cause mortality risk,” the study says. “The results of this study suggest that policy makers and clinicians should be cautious about placing emphasis on sitting behaviour as a risk factor for mortality that is distinct from the effect of physical activity.”

Image: Dilbert

According to the study, sitting is no worse than standing for people who are otherwise inactive. "Our study overturns current thinking on the health risks of sitting and indicates that the problem lies in the absence of movement rather than the time spent sitting itself," study author Melvyn Hillsdon of the University of Exeter said in a statement. "Any stationary posture where energy expenditure is low may be detrimental to health, be it sitting or standing."

Researchers studied 16 years of health data from over 5,000 participants who recorded both their total sitting time and their sitting time in four different situations: at work, watching TV, leisure time and non-TV leisure time. They also recorded time spent walking daily and on physical activity.

After controlling for diet and general health, the researchers found no causation between the mortality risk of the participants and time spent sitting.

"Any stationary posture where energy expenditure is low may be detrimental to health, be it sitting or standing."

"Our study overturns current thinking on the health risks of sitting and indicates that the problem lies in the absence of movement rather than the time spent sitting itself," says study author Melvyn Hillsdon of the University of Exeter. "Any stationary posture where energy expenditure is low may be detrimental to health, be it sitting or standing."

So, what about that standing desk management just signed off on?

According to the study, sitting less will only help if you’re replacing it with exercise.

Maybe add a treadmill to your order.