Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

There's A Killer In Your Office: Your Chair - Studies Show Sitting Hastens Death

Posted by Tom Foremski - January 21, 2010

There is a killer right under your nose. Or rather, right under your butt -- your chair.

You might be pleased with that cool looking Aeron chair your buns are nestled in — but it's nothing but a stylish killer.

Recent studies have shown that the amount of time you spend sitting is related to a raised risk of dying. Sit more, die sooner.

An Australian study of 8,800 people over a six year period found that for each hour spent sitting increased the risk of death from heart disease by one-fifth. They were studying TV watching but it's not the TV that can kill you -- that's just a lure for sitting -- which can kill you.

It won't be long before US lawyers begin filing class-action lawsuits against well-heeled chair makers, for not warning innocent sitters that they are risking their lives.

In the near future, you might even be required to sign wavers that you understand the risks before being able to buy a chair, or sit in an office chair.

Exercise doesn't protect...

It seems that exercise doesn't help. Take a look at this Canadian study:

. . .a study published last year that tracked more than 17,000 Canadians for about a dozen years, researchers found people who sat more had a higher death risk, independently of whether or not they exercised.

Sitting might even lead to other diseases...

"After four hours of sitting, the body starts to send harmful signals," Ekblom-Bak said. She explained that genes regulating the amount of glucose and fat in the body start to shut down.

But is it fair to blame the chair?

Yes, because how else would you sit? Without a chair or its equivalent in a stool, or couch, or easy chair — you'd have to squat. People have been squatting since year dot and we're still here. It's the chair that's at fault.

I'm looking at getting a desk at which you can stand and still get your work done.

No one yet has made a desk at which you can squat but dibs on that idea. An office full of 'squatters' might look strange but it'll be a healthy office.

In the meantime, here is some good advice:

"We don't have enough evidence yet to say how much sitting is bad," said Peter Katzmarzyk of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, who led the Canadian study. "But it seems the more you can get up and interrupt this sedentary behavior, the better."


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