Health risk: Now I have to give up sitting?

  • Living
  • Sunday, 08 Oct 2017

Riiiiiight here...

There is a ton of research going on and I can’t keep up, so mostly I stay sceptical.

Did you know that sitting is now bad for you? Yep. Gone are the days of showing up somewhere tired or stressed and someone offering you a seat to calm down. Next time someone does that to me, I’ll spit “are you insane?!”

Sitting is “the new smoking”. Apparently, researchers have found that sitting for prolonged periods, 12.5 hours or more – and yeah, as someone who enjoys sitting, that is an incredibly long time – can increase your chance of death by basically all causes.

Heart attack, cancer, diabetes and depression are all ramped up because of sitting. (This really makes me rethink all the hours I’ve sat here writing this column.)

But now a new study comes out and says, hey, maybe sitting isn’t that bad after all.

In this new study, researchers looked at the context of sitting. They found that people sitting at work usually were in higher paying jobs, and that it had no effect on their health, while people sitting and watching TV for extended periods tended to be in lower socioeconomic groups, had worse jobs and ate less healthily. It would seem that sitting being unhealthy is really linked to other factors.

That is until another study comes out and definitively says sitting is the new black plague.

And this is the problem. How do we keep up with any of this? Especially when it comes to our health.

My father told me, when he was young, he read lots of studies that stated eating fat was good! Lots of calories, gave you lots of reserves, and could help keep you going during a physically demanding work day – which is why my dad was interested in this stuff. So he went to town eating the fatty chunks off the steak, sticks of butter, whatever – fat is good! These days if we saw someone eating like that we’d figured they were trying to commit suicide by lard, which, really on the scale of ways to kill yourself, sounds like a pretty okay option.

But the research keeps changing.

How about gluten intolerance? The study that launched it all was from Monash University and was released back in 2011. They found that gluten could cause stomach distress in people without coeliac disease. And this was the whole launch into gluten-free everything. Even products that never contained gluten were being stamped gluten free because it’s a selling point. Thirty per cent of people now want to eat less gluten and it’s become a 15-billion-dollar industry in the United States alone – where any diet promising to give you movie star abs does well for itself.

Well, a couple of years ago the same researchers from Monash University retested the entire gluten thing and found it had no effect on people. They had effectively debunked their own study. Gluten intolerance isn’t really a thing. Science works.

But this study hasn’t done much to stop the entire gluten-free market. Because the public seized on one idea and now the follow-up to counter the point doesn’t really matter.

Riiiiiight here...

Coffee suffered the same fate for decades. Coffee was bad for you. Linked to heart disease and higher risk of death. The initial research is sort of like the sitting thing. Researchers didn’t take into account that most people who drank a lot of coffee were smokers. The negative effects they linked to coffee were really linked to smoking – which is the old sitting, remember? Once they got rid of the smokers and just looked at coffee drinkers, the results were much different. New research stated coffee isn’t bad for you – in fact, research released in the past couple of months states coffee may actually prolong lifespans!

What are we supposed to believe?

I’m not pointing at any grand conspiracy to trick the public – that’s not what’s happening. It’s just studies and research, especially when we get these click bait headlines in the news, “SITTING IS THE NEW SMOKING!”, may not be right. To prove these sorts of things, usually dozens of studies are done, but the first one that is contrary to what we think is the norm is usually what gets reported over and over until it makes it into our collective consciousness.

So be sceptical. No matter how outrageous the headline. And in the meantime, take a seat and relax. At least until the next study that tells us sitting is the new arsenic.

Catch Jason Godfrey on Inspiring Homes on Life Inspired (Astro CH 728).

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