Living

Why studies about the dangers of sitting at work may be bad for your health

And you thought you should avoid trans fats. It turns out there is a far more dangerous offender than partially hydrogenated oils lurking in our midst, just waiting to destroy our precious physical health. The arch villain I speak of: the common office chair.

100503376

Sara Wight, Getty images

And you thought you should avoid trans fats. It turns out there is a far more dangerous offender than partially hydrogenated oils lurking in our midst. The arch villain I speak of: the common office chair.

A number of news stories and medical studies have come out recently proclaiming that extended sitting—also known as “modern employment”—is bad for your health. Armed with their findings, researchers are forming a posse and rounding up all the usual suspects: heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. Sitting for extended periods of time apparently increases your risk of all of these illnesses. One study found too much time on your keister increases your risk of illness period. 

If you think that’s depressing. Wait until you get a load of the “cure.” To combat the negative effects of sitting some are suggesting we trade the office chair for the “standing desk.” Sounds awful, right? But the standing desk has its issues too, as another set of studies suggests standing for prolonged periods isn’t good for your health either.

Feeling dizzy yet? Me too.

What’s most troubling about this set of contradictory ideas is how little help it offers people either way. It just adds another layer of worry unto our already hyper-anxious state of mind, because unlike cigarettes or trans fats, you can’t “quit” your chair or avoid sitting at work. Office chairs are unavoidable and necessary (Hey folks, I ain’t standing for nine hours! I’ll take my chances sitting down.)

Sadly, the only cure for avoiding sitting at work is unemployment. And, surprise, surprise there’s a study that says that’s bad for your health too.

In an ideal world, it would be great if after reading about the dangers of working too much our bosses decided to cut the workday down, giving us the freedom to run around in a meadow, monarch butterflies tickling the tips of our noses as we ran free. Until that glorious day of enlightenment, I think it might be wise to give researchers this question to ponder: what are the negative health effects of reading too many health studies?