Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Now Even Sitting Researchers Are Sitting on the Fence

By Tim Olds

To sit or stand has become an uncomfortable question for health researchers.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

On 4 October this year, A/Prof Emmanuel Stamatakis of Sydney University released a study claiming that swapping just 1 hour of daily sitting with standing is linked to a 5% reduction in the risk of premature death.

This is not so surprising. Stamatakis is an excellent and well-respected epidemiologist, and we’ve heard the sitting message before. Fore example, a large American study found that people who sit more, and who sit for prolonged periods, are more likely to have wider waists, higher blood fats, higher levels of inflammation and greater overall risk of death.

What’s a little more surprising is that 1 month later Stamatakis was a co-author of a study which found that in a famous British cohort (Whitehall II), sitting was not associated with mortality risk after 16 years of follow-up. Neither total sitting time, time spent watching TV, leisure time sitting nor sitting at work had any relationship with the risk of death. Stamatakis’ group concluded that policy-makers should be cautious about recommending reductions in sitting time as a stand-alone public health intervention.

What’s a person to believe these days? One day, milk is good for you and your bones, the next it increases your risk of death and fractures. Saturated fat is a killer one day, the next day it’s almost a health food. Now we’re getting mixed messages about sitting.

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The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.