Your Office Chair Isn’t The Silent Killer It’s Said to Be

Photo by Michał Kubalczyk on Unsplash

Sit-stand workstations are said to provide a solution to the sedentary lifestyle of office workers, but new research suggests that sitting isn’t directly correlated to mortality risks, as previous studies have claimed. And standing has almost the same results as sitting, the researchers say.

The study, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, acknowledges that sitting behaviors have long been linked with increased risk of all-cause mortality. However, it cautions that previous studies have examined single indicators of sitting or all sitting behaviors combined, whereas the current examination looks to enhance the evidence base by looking at type-specific prospective associations of five different sedentary behaviors (including standing) as well as total sitting.

The dead have spoken

They gauged data from 3720 men and 1412 women over 16 years, during which time 450 of the subjects passed away, leaving important data for the scientists to use in the quest of finding the impact of sitting versus other postures involving inactivity. According to the paper, none of the five sitting indicators could be associated with mortality risk. In other words, no single type of inactivity is more of a silent killer than the other.

“The problem lies in the absence of movement rather than the time spent sitting itself,” one of the paper authors said in a statement. “Any stationary posture where energy expenditure is low may be detrimental to health, be it sitting or standing. The results cast doubt on the benefits of sit-stand work stations.”

Science can (sometimes) be wrong

The results also cast doubt over those said by policy makers and clinicians alike. The researchers advise caution in postulating workplace indications based on inconclusive research, emphasizing that sitting at the desk for hours at a time as a risk factor for mortality is not distinct from physical inactivity in general. They also noted that future studies should focus on the correlation between sitting and mortality risk by quantifying postural allocation.

This one comes from us. It’s worth pointing out that getting up from your desk and pacing around once every hour is highly advisable. In fact, it’s so advisable that Google even offers a timer that you can set to remind yourself that. And if you have the luxury of choosing between physical labor and an office chair, and they both score the same on your happiness ‘o meter, go for the physical one. You’ll thank yourself later when all your office-working friends morph into hunchbacks.

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