Do we need a ball chair, an expensive ergonomic wonder chair, a treadmill desk, a standing desk or all of the above? You have, no doubt, seen this discussion in every major news and lifestyle outlet, so let’s talk about sitting.
James Levine of the Mayo Clinic was looking at the question of why some people consume the same amount of food as others but gain weight differently. In his study, a group of people added 1,000 calories per day to their diets. Some gained weight, but some did not. Levine began looking for biological markers that explained the disparity. Despite years of investigation and further trials, he could not identify a so-called “magic marker.”
Levine did notice one thing: that participants who moved more (not necessarily exercised more) gained less weight. He measured things like fidgeting, getting up and down, doing chores, etc. and concluded that sedentary people are more likely to gain weight, which then puts them at higher risk for some health conditions.
Do an internet search for, “Sitting is the new smoking.” You’ll get something like 6 million hits, 2 million news articles and 2.5 million videos, not to mention the memes and cartoons, all warning you that you are going to die from sitting too much. Expect to rapidly develop kidney disease, varicose veins, sciatica, breast cancer, colon cancer and more…all contributing to $24 million in healthcare costs. All this, just from sitting!
For those still with me, it’s time to take a deep breath.
There is no debate that obesity does not favors for your physiology and your chances for a healthy life. However, there is NO inherent risk in sitting – not in and of itself. So how is it that the media has us already doomed? This coverage falls into the all-too-typical pattern: a research study is picked up by a news site, different marketing groups pounce on the story and spin the hype to unheard-of levels, just to help their companies sell products and boost their bottom line.
JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, is famous for this. They publish an article that shows the benefits of a particular drug, then notify the pharmaceutical company, which purchases tens of thousands of reprints to distribute at conferences and to doctors via their reps. And of course, lots of press releases go out to media outlets, who will pick up the most sensational news stories to pass along.
So what are the conclusions here? Move in your seat. Change sitting positions. Get up from your desk more frequently, get off the couch a little bit more and take a few more breaks on road trips. And don’t rely on major media outlets for your health news unless you’re willing to spend some time digging for the truth.