The fact that physical inactivity—specifically sitting all day—increases one’s risk for a variety of nasty health side effects, including death, continues to shock and astound internet readers the First World over.

Also breaking: eating fewer calories can cause weight loss.

What’s most troubling, I think, is that the latest round of sitting studies are leading people to believe that exercise is pointless. The general takeaway, collectively paraphrased, seems to be “If you’re sitting all day, then it doesn’t matter if you hit the gym at the end of the day.”

The ever-observant and part-time New York Times watchdog, Dr. Drang, offers a welcome, if lone, voice of reason among the hubbub caused by a couple of recent sitting studies reported on by the Times.

I agree with Dr. Drang’s dissection of the Australian study. Alas, I don’t subscribe to and don’t have access to the full study, but I think the key sentence lies in the abstract’s conclusion:

Prolonged sitting is a risk factor for all-cause mortality, independent of physical activity.

No matter how the researchers sliced and diced the 200+ thousand adults in the study, those who sat a lot had a greater risk of dying than those who were more active. It just so happens that one such group was defined by physical activity.

Suppose you selected a sample of adults who all jogged, say, three days a week. Some of the adults in that group sit more than eight hours a day, while others are more active, sitting four hours or less.

Which members of that group do you think would be healthier?

Sure there is a point at which too much activity becomes unhealthy, but I know I’m lightyears from that threshold, and I bet most other adults are, too.

And so here’s where we are:

  • Sitting a lot is bad for us
  • Our jobs require us to sit a lot
  • We’re doing something wrong
  • Oh look, I’ve got email

… which is where we’ve been for a while now.

I think what bothers me the most is the all or nothing fallacy. Some exercise is always better than no exercise. And it’s true of so many other things, too.

Humanity was never meant to sit still, figuratively or literally. Neo-sedentism is likely our greatest enemy yet.