Is sitting the new smoking?

Woman working online
A woman works online in her cubicle at an office in Beijing on February 4, 2010.

Science has long been telling us to get active by exercising and walking more. But now, along with smoking and eating poorly, sitting has been declared the latest health threat. Some researchers claim that sitting for extended periods of time can shorten life expectancy, cause cancer and even diabetes.

More from The Atlantic on one of the latest studies:

Its most striking finding was that people who sat more than 11 hours a day had a 40% higher risk of dying in the next three years than people who sat less than four hours a day. This was after adjusting for factors such as age, weight, physical activity and general health status, all of which affect the death risk. It also found a clear dose-response effect: the more people sat, the higher their risk of death.

The results are part of the Sax Institute's 45 and Up Study, the largest ongoing study of healthy aging in the Southern Hemisphere. It compared the self-reported daily sitting time of 222,497 Australian adults 45 years or older with their likelihood of death in the next three years.

Mayo Clinic researcher James Levine said we need to get active at work now, and that means throwing away your office chair.

"There is somewhat shocking data that suggests that if you're a good regular gym-goer, three times a week, that may not be as good for your health as interspersing little activity throughout the day, and standing is part of that," he said.

Levine joined The Daily Circuit Tuesday to talk about the latest research and if standing at work is the cure for all of our inactivity. Alan Hedge, director of the Human Factors and Ergonomics program at Cornell University, also joined the discussion.


It's not just sitting versus standing. It's about getting people moving more throughout the day.

Volume Button
Now Listening To Livestream
MPR News logo
On Air
MPR News