Is It Worse to Be Sitting at Work or Sitting at Home?

A recent report indicates that sitting at home is more problematic for health than sitting at work and may be bad news for the manufacturer’s of standing desks.

Time: This Type of Sitting is the Worst for Your Health

Background: For the study, [published in the Journal of the American Heart Association: JM Garcia et al. Full text link Types of Sedentary Behavior and Risk of Cardiovascular Events and Mortality in Blacks: The Jackson Heart Study.] “almost 3,600 African American adults reported the amount of time they’d spent sitting at work, watching television and exercising over the previous year. They also provided demographic, lifestyle and health-history information. The researchers monitored the participants’ health over eight years, during which 129 had a cardiovascular issue and 205 died.”

Key findings:

  • “After adjusting for health and lifestyle factors, the researchers found that “often or always” sitting at work was not associated with a heightened risk of death and heart disease”
  • “But those watching four or more hours of television per day had a 50% higher risk of heart issues and death, compared to those watching two hours or less per day.”
  • From Today: Sitting while watching TV, but not sitting at work, linked with higher health risk: “The health risk of watching lots of TV vanished when people spent 150 minutes or more per week doing moderate-to-vigorous exercise— like brisk walking, running, swimming and cycling.”

Commentary from Time report:

  • “People who spend a good chunk of their free time watching television likely do so at the expense of exercising.”
  • “Vegging in front of the TV may also inspire other unhealthy habits” –like snacking, consuming alcohol, and disrupting sleep patterns.

My take: This study suggests that sitting a lot at work is mainly a problem only for those who sit a lot when they leave work.

Retiro Park, Madrid


Sitting Better (like a dog) to Fix Back Problems

On the way to work, I heard this NPR story:  To Fix That Pain In Your Back, You Might Have To Change The Way You Sit

An excerpt:

“Most of us do not sit well, and we’ve certainly been putting a lot more stress on our spines,” says Khan, who operates on spines at Sutters Health’s Palo Alto Medical Foundation.

If we change the way we sit, Khan says, it will help to decrease back problems.

“We should sit less, and we should sit better,” he says.

Over the past century or so, many Americans have lost the art of sitting, he says. Most people in the U.S. — even children — are sitting in one particular way that’s stressing their backs. You might not realize you’re doing it. But it’s super easy to see in other people.

Here’s how: Take a look at people who are sitting down – not face-on but rather from the side, in profile, so you can see the shape of their spine.

There’s a high probability their back is curving like the letter C — or some version of C. Or it might make you think of a cashew nut, sitting in the chair. There are two telltale signs: Their shoulders curve over and their butts curve under. That posture is hurting their backs, Khan says…

To figure out how to shift your pelvis into a healthier position, Sherer says to imagine for a minute you have a tail. If we were designed like dogs, the tail would be right at the base of your spine…

To straighten out the C shape, Sherer says, “we need to position the pelvis in a way that this tail could wag.”

My take -disclosure: I am not a back expert –so I am not sure about the expertise of some of this advice.  Also, this article is in sync with a previous NPR segment —Back Pain May Be the Result of Bending Over at the Waist (Lost Art of Bending Over: How Other Cultures Spare Their Spines)

Disclaimer: These blog posts are for educational purposes only. Specific dosing of medications/diets (along with potential adverse effects) should be confirmed by prescribing physician/nutritionist.  This content is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a condition.