They say sitting can kill you

That's right, it's not the cigarette in the actor's hand that's the crazy lifestyle choice. It's his sitting on a couch.

A team from the American Cancer Society recently looked at the members of a study they began in 1993 to study leisure time.

What they found is that sitting down all evening will kill you. (The fourth season of Mad Men debuts this Sunday night on AMC.)

After adjusting for smoking, body mass, and other factors, they found that those who spent over six hours of their daily leisure time sitting had a roughly 25% better chance of being dead today from all causes than those who were on their butts for three hours or fewer after work.

The relative risk was 1.34 for women, 1.17 for men. (That's right, it's not the cigarette in the actor's hand that's the crazy lifestyle choice. It's his sitting on a couch.)

"Walk around or stand up while playing your favorite game," wrote a producer for Sanjay Gupta. "You may add years to your life."

"Public health campaigns should also promote less sitting and more walking around," said study author Alpa Patel. Or standing?

Sitting around in one's spare time appears to raise the risk of dying, said ABC.

Then the press started wandering further afield. The longer you sit the shorter your life span, wrote HealthDay for US News.

Finally the folks at EmaxHealth compiled a list of the jobs that require the most sitting. Naturally computer programmers are on the list. So are writers. I haven't learned how to write while standing up. Have you learned to code that way?

But that last is misleading. The study did not examine work time. It didn't say those who work from desks are going to die faster than those who work on construction sites. The study focused on leisure time.

Here's another problem. People who are made to work a lot of overtime (you know who you are) may be hard pressed to find four hours each day when they're awake and not working. Is this good for them?

There are also some people who stand up while working. There is a cottage industry in desks you can use while standing. Many good ones are made in the USA. I would find it as tough to switch to one today as I would find it tough to use a recumbent bike and for the same reason -- they use different muscles.

My son, a student, likes to take long walks, but whether or not school is in session he spends much of his time at his desk, on his butt, in front of his computer.

You mean he's doomed, too?  Are cops walking beats who then stand up at neighborhood bars, guts hanging over their stools, the new paragons of healthy living?

No.

But look at how we live. Do you commute an hour to work each day, by car? That's two hours of sitting. Sit down to enjoy a good meal? That's another hour (if it's a good meal). Like to read? Another hour or two right there.

It's TV that's killing us. Most people can easily go several hours at a stretch in front of the tube. Why a single NFL game can last four hours, not counting the pre-game show.

We're used to thinking of leisure as sit-down time. We may exercise for a period, we may walk around a bit, but most modern Americans sit. We don't stand.

Yet standing is a more natural stance for the human anatomy. Standing isn't really exercise. Standing means more blood flows to your legs. Does this mean Mario Batali is going to outlive us all? Cooks stand all day.

Maybe, after work, we need to spend more time in crowded bars. And maybe, while at work, we should be allowed to spend a little more time wandering the halls, away from our desks. Just thinking.

And maybe, someday we can get a lifestyle study that offers clear advice.

Have a good weekend, standing up.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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