Well, they've ruined food for us, and drinking, and being in the sun, so I guess it was only a matter of time before scientists would get around to finding out that sitting is bad for us as well. This a topic of special interest to writers, since we spend most of our working time on our posteriors.
We're talking about serious stuff here: "Studies and reviews have shown that higher levels of sitting are linked with cancer, diabetes, heart disease and even an early death, independently of whether a person takes regular exercise," says ScienceDaily. On the psychological level, sitting down is associated with an increased risk of anxiety.
What's a writer to do? Here's a round-up of the most recent research and some suggestions for minimizing the dangers.
How can you reduce the amount of time you spend sitting down? Some people use sit-stand desks. Although the desks designed for this are expensive, there are inexpensive stands you can put on your normal desk.
You can also stand during your breaks. Linking it to something you like to do or do regularly, like making phone calls or checking your email or social media, makes it easier to remember. You could also set a repeating alarm on your phone or computer to remind you to stand at various points in your work day.
A study at the University of Missouri-Columbia reports that when you sit for six straight hours it impairs your vascular function. The good news: walking for ten minutes after all that sitting restores your vascular health.
If you work in an office, there's a reasonable chance that at the end of the day you'll walk ten minutes to the bus stop or train station, but if you drive and it takes you only a couple of minutes to get to your car (or if, like me, you work at home), walk around for ten minutes at the end of the day.
A study at the University of Utah suggests that "spending two minutes of walking each hour is associated with a 33% lower chance of dying" --presumably they mean dying prematurely...
The study's authors suggest walking for two minutes an hour as well as getting the recommended 2.5 hours of moderate exercise per week.
For writers, pacing while trying to figure out the next scene or chapter sounds like a good strategy.
Another study, this one by the National Institutes for Health, says taking a three-minute break to walk in the middle of sedentary activity can improve children's blood sugar levels and reduce their risk of getting diabetes--so drag your kids away from the X-Box or Playstation and make them walk around with you.
THE FIDGETING SOLUTION
A study at the University of Leeds suggests that fidgeting may be enough to stop long bouts of sitting from shortening your life.
If you don't fidget, should you start? I suspect either you're a fidgeter or you're not and the downside of being one (like making people around you nervous or annoying them) probably outweighs the benefits, so I'd go for one of the other solutions above.
PASS IT ON
If you know somebody who spends a lot of time sitting, why not pass this along to them?