Is Sitting the New Smoking?

—By Esther Chung, Co-Head Copy Editor—

Sitting may be shortening our lifespans, even if we exercise regularly. According to a new study carried out by top universities, sitting for lengthy periods of time has detrimental results on human health. Research in past years has shows a correlation between sedentary activity and disease, but this study is the first to declare that death is linked with sitting for long periods of time, regardless of whether one exercises or not.

Most people already know that sitting around all day is no good for one’s health. The general increase in technology such as TV, internet, and video games has led to a population that spends increasing time sitting indoors rather than going out and moving around. This trend in lower activity levels has led to a nation riddled by higher occurrences of diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. However, this study took the research a step further, and investigated the effects of the duration of time people spent sitting.

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Infographic courtesy of Esther Chung

Participants in this study went through a large number of health tests and over 8,000 of them even wore accelerators for the span of an entire week to track daily movements. Scientists found that upon analyzing results, there were strong correlations between sitting and mortality rates. Even more alarming was their discovery that this risk of death was barely lowered even if people showed regular patterns of exercise. However, scientists also found that the risk of early death did decrease if sitting time was less than 30 minutes at a time.

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Infographic courtesy of Esther Chung

This research claims that sitting for prolonged times, whether in school, at home, or work, is an often overlooked cause of health problems and death. According to their findings, this risk can be reduced by interrupting these periods of sitting with breaks, and carrying out an active, health-conscious lifestyle. Regardless, this news is still alarming for the general population, which spends an average of 13 hours a day sitting according to Ergotron, a prominent manufacturer of mobility products. However, how credible is the notion that solely sitting for prolonged periods of time is a slow but sure one-way-road to an early death? The truth is quite surprising.

Like all else in life, these alarming new statistics on sitting time and health must be taken with a grain of salt. It is worth noting that along with weak links, missing data and tiny samples, the research was ironically funded by none other than Coca Cola, the global manufacturer of world’s most sugary soda beverages. Why? Because this is exactly the kind of research Coca Cola would need to stay in business. They love the implications of the study: sitting is making Americans fat and unhealthy, nevermind these two liter bottles of soda everywhere. In other words, Coca Cola was most likely motivated to spend over $1.5 million funding the research in order to shift the blame of obesity towards sitting and away from than bad diets.

Whether or not this research is an accurate look at the effect of sitting on health, it’s safe to assume that sitting around all day won’t help people get healthier. Despite the controversy surrounding this particular subject, there is probably some degree of truth to the matter. In all, it’s more than likely that a good mix of frequent activity, healthy habits, and a good diet will be the best way to avoid health problems later in life, regardless of the reliability of this specific study.