This article perfectly highlights the issue everyone faces these days when trying to distinguish fact from fake news, or at least meaningful insight from unscientific nonsense. It is also a great example of the low quality of writing and reporting on ‘popular science’ that is common in the media today.
From the headline “Standing desks could increase life expectancy, study finds”, and based on the first half of the article, the reader would be forgiven for thinking that this article contained useful information based on the findings of legitimate scientific research, indicating that it would be a great idea to stand up while working in order to live longer.
However, there are two clues to this not being the case at all: one of which is in the use of the modal verb ‘could’, indicating that these results are not watertight; and also that only one miniscule and very unscientific study has claimed this finding.
Even worse, the article goes on to make yet another, even more extremely alarming statement that “[…] the emerging evidence suggests that the ill-effects of sedentary behaviour cannot be overcome by exercise”, this time without even quoting a source for this outlandish declaration.
In actual fact, in the very next paragraph the article’s authors then go on to totally contradict all of these claimed findings, and their own headline, and for the remaining third of the article they quote findings that prove the complete opposite to their original point, admitting that much more extensive and more comprehensive research has already found that neither sitting nor standing have any measurable effect on health as long as regular exercise is part of a person’s lifestyle.
It is these important language and context cues and contradictions that the reader should be aware of when trying to determine the usefulness of the reporting contained within.
This piece also highlights the need to read an article all the way to the end and not just the headline and first paragraph as is commonly found on social media, because only then would a savvy reader be able to dismiss such sensationalist popular science reporting as the drivel it really is. How many “scientific reports” have you seen sensationalised in the media and just accepted them at face value?
Standing desks could increase life expectancy, study finds