As if in a mystically orchestrated cosmic response to the Slate article on (lack of) walking, The Atlantic Monthly has published a short piece describing an Australian study that reaffirms the findings of many other studies that have come before it: sitting too much is bad for you. Or, as the title of the article states plainly: Confirmed: He Who Sits the Most Dies the Soonest.
A few choice excerpts from the piece:
It is now well accepted that too much sitting is unhealthy. Studies in the last few years have found that death risks rise when people watch spend more leisure time in front of a computer screen or TV or simply sit too much.
In other words, people still need to exercise, but it’s also important to spend less time sitting.
And of the new study of more than 200,000 Australians the author notes:
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.
Sure, the critically skeptical reader might argue, as some of the commenters have, that the protocol was flawed, that there was not enough consideration made for the small amounts of walking one might within one’s own home, and so on. But perhaps this is missing the larger point. If we find ourselves sitting consistently for more than eleven hours a day, should we be worried? All of these studies are premised in large part on the implicit notion that all humans have a desire to live as long as possible. That, too, may not necessarily be true for everyone.
(warning: unintentional riff on mortality starts here)
During my travels last summer, I watched an Australian television program about a tribe in South America whose members lived a life largely removed from what most of us are familiar with as an image of society. Their average lifespan was little more than three decades, not because of health-related issues or poor nutrition or another factor that might be one of the usual suspects that are the inhibitors of longevity. One man who was interviewed said that he had prepared a poisonous drink for himself that he was ready to consume as soon as he received confirmation that his beloved had died; she was ill at the time. This story, at least within the limited scope of this short documentary, was not atypical. The abbreviated and edited narratives of tribal members brought the phrase “life worth living” into new focus.*
Far from being a morose glimpse into the lives of a relatively cloistered community, the narration and video documentation underscored the purposefulness of life, the intentionality of attending to what one is compelled to do, whether by necessity or desire. Implicit, and occasionally stated outright, was a message of living collectively with one another; wherein life was seen as delicately interwoven with the lives of others. This was not a go-it-alone adventure. One wonders, in this frame, how much living one can do from the vantage point of one’s couch. If we are to sit then perhaps we might seek out a bench in a locale where, before one sits, one must journey at least a little.