Sitting is the new smoking

I’m not coining this phrase here, btw. Not sure where it came from, but I recently heard it from Working Out Sucks author Chuck Runyon, so I’ll tag him with some credit.

Anyhow–if you haven’t heard, the detrimental effects of being a sedentary, sit on our butts society, have come to light of late. Studies are starting to reveal that sitting all day, as many people do for eight to 10 hours each and every day, can be really hard on our bodies and health. In fact, one study I just read suggested that sitting can increase the risk for cardiovascular disease by as much as 80 percent.

Happy standing up

A couple years back I changed my desk at home (where I work) to a standing up desk. It was as simple as adding a small shelf for my laptop, and now that’s where I do all my writing/emailing, etc. And I have to tell you–my body is SO much happier for it. I don’t get back aches, butt aches (yes those come with the territory) or just overall fatigue since making this switch. Conversely, put me in a car for a six-hour trip to Ohio like I just made, and my body is screaming at me.

I carry this standing up stuff over to all kinds of places. In doctor’s office waiting rooms, in meetings, you name it. What I’ve noticed, interestingly, is that it makes people uncomfortable. They like to offer you seats. But I’ve never been one to care too much about what people think (I’m the one that walks around the neighborhood barefoot all the time, remember) so I’m not going to sit just to make someone else feel less awkward.

I am convinced that our bodies were not made to sit. Think about our ancestors–they were out hunting and gathering all day. It wasn’t until the last century, in fact, that we started spending most of our time sitting down. Just because we can sit doesn’t mean we have to.

So if you sit at a desk all day, I encourage you to find a way to change that. Yes, your coworkers will think you’ve lost it. But you’ll be the healthier for it. Who knows–you might even start a trend.

Is sitting the new smoking? What do you think? 


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  1. says

    It seems like it is that way and judging by the high volume of kids that live in my neighborhood that I never, ever see except at the school bus stop, I think it applies to most people. I don’t know that I could do the stand up desk for my type of work but I do get up and about and break up the day with some sort of movement!
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  2. says

    I think it was AJ Jacobs who said that in his new book, Drop Dead Healthy! (Reading it now and I saw him speak). It’s a pretty big statement but I’m on board with it-it’s horrible for your body in my opinion! I always try to stand or walk when I can. On the train…walking to the printer or trash can that’s further away at work…I hate sitting all day! I hope that if more studies about this come out and it gets more recognition, maybe companies will start doing something about it.
    Kara recently posted..Finding Your StrongMy Profile

  3. says

    I think movement is good, not simply standing. The reason I say this is that pharmacist spend their careers standing, often just in one spot, and they are plagued with joint problems and terrible varicose veins. So I make it a point to move around on the job (which is easy for me given my actual work environment). I’m trying to avoid those veins!
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  4. says

    I was just going to say, I bet it makes people uncomfortable when you stand in waiting rooms!

    I really like this idea, but I also think that I’m innately lazy. I may run 50 miles a week, but I enjoy not moving too. It’d be nice to have the option to raise up my desk when my back started hurting, etc. though.
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  5. says

    It is a problem in our country isn’t it? The human body is not designed to sit all day, it’s killing us, wish more of America saw the benefit in moving, not just for health but for state of mind.
    I love your stand up desk, really cool and in addition to being better for your back etc. also a great space saver.
    LisaM@RunWiki recently posted..When Life is no Fun…go for runMy Profile

  6. says

    I don’t think standing is much better than sitting- moving is! so, while I am sitting at my desk all the time right now (just got done writing my bachelor thesis, which ment I was sitting 12 hours or more for the past 3 or 4 weeks), I make sure to get up and move as often as possible, even if its just for a minute or two.
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  7. says

    I really believe that sitting is indeed terrible for us. And sadly, I sit most of the day. With recent injuries, it’s made me really aware of how much it hurts our bodies to sit, so I stand up and stretch at least every 30 minutes. Sometimes more. I would love a desk that allowed me to stand – or even a treadmill desk.

    At my job, I have to research and write health/wellness articles. And have recently been reading a lot about the sitting. And people absolutely don’t get it. They really over-estimate how much they move.
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  8. says

    Great point about standing up in other places. I agree folks think it’s weird. I should do that more often though. If I am talking to someone as I stand up and they sit — however — I think that puts on a domineering presence so that would add to the discomfort.
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  9. says

    Agreed. I wish I could stand more and move more at work, but the cubicle beckons. Sure, I like reclining on the couch as much as the next gal, but this office chair gives me slight back pain, hip pain, etc. Although it’s slight, it really adds up week after week!
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  10. says

    I agree COMPLETELY!!! As a middle-school Social Studies teacher, I’m on my feet all day……HATE sitting down. I try to get my students up and moving as often as practical, but as you might imagine that can prove to be……..”challenging” at times!

    I also prefer to stand as often as possible in public……and it really is surprising how often people are surprised when I respond “no thanks, I’m ok standing” when they offer me a seat.

    When you rest, you rust!
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  11. says

    love this! love the standing desk…what an awesome idea! I can imagine sitting all day would def be hard on the body, I’ve heard people using exercise balls, or a even a treadmill behind their desk! LOL, whatever works to keep us active right?!
    marissa recently posted....and he’s only 12?My Profile

  12. says

    I’m impressed by the lack of junk all over your desk.

    I was wondering how your standing desk thing worked out. Glad it’s helping.

    I’m currently lying in bed with my laptop on my hip. At least I’m not lying on my butt. Hahah. I do this in the morning for a half hour or so before I start my day.
    Jill recently posted..Two times the 5k funMy Profile

  13. says

    I use a filebox to make a makeshift standing desk about part of the time that I’m working when I’m at home, but I still do quite a bit of sitting – especially when I’m doing research at archives. For very good reasons, the security is such that I wouldn’t be able to bring in that kind of apparatus to use. I try to take a little walk break, though, every hour or so.
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  14. says

    I sit al lot more than I would like to but I do make the effort to stand as much as possible. I also take extra walk/standup breaks often. The standup desk is really cool.
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  15. says

    Yes Yes Yes to all of this! AJ Jacobs used that phrase in his talk at the Fitness Magazine event last week (not sure if he coined right there or someone else has used it before?). I sit and work at a computer all day. Plus, I work at home so that means that I don’t even get the usual walk to the subway and to the office that I normally would and I find that I’m so achy and creaky! I need to be better about getting up and moving more during the work day and taking breaks. Thanks for this great post!
    Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted..Billabong Rio Pro 2012My Profile

  16. says

    Yes! I totally believe sitting is bad for us. One of my friends works for AARP and they no longer have chairs at their desks — they have stand up desks now. She is an ultra runner and sometimes says she would like to sit at work, but ultimately knows standing is better. I love that AARP is doing that – they get the effects of sitting all day on our aging bodies!
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  17. says

    I sit on a pilates ball at my desk instead of a chair, but I do prefer to stand. I also find it funny when people get squirmy while I’m standing at the library, dr’s office, etc.

    Your shelf-desk is so simple! I would have to find a way to store all the crap I keep in my desk drawers and all over the top of my desk. This may be a summer project worth tackling….
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  18. says

    Wouldn’t say its’ the new smoking but…I can see what you mean. Lucky for me, I have to pee about 10 times a day, which forces me to get up. Ha ha…but really, I think people should make it a priority to take a 20 minute walk break during work and of course get your normal 5/x exercise and I think you will be okay.
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  19. says

    I can’t sit all day I start to go stir crazy! It’s much easier to incorporate movement since I work from home, but even when I was in a traditional office I would have to get up and go take a lap around the floor – helps me to focus better!

    I feel the same after long car rides – my body just rebels!
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  20. says

    Wow, that’s a lot of sitting! I am a stay at home mom, so I don’t get much siting time during the day. I can’t imagine sitting at a desk all day. My body would rebel!
    hikermom recently posted..Free Rant FridayMy Profile

  21. says

    I’m feeling a little guilty about all the times that I don’t get off my work stool and just roll myself from one place to another. But it’s so much fun.
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  22. says

    I was just talking about standing desks with a co-worker the other day. We’d love to have them as an option. While I usually sit down on the train during my morning commute, I’m always standing on the way home (regardless of how many empty seats there are). I can take only so much sitting in a day before it starts driving me crazy.
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  23. Sandee says

    Thanks for the reminder. I am a dental hygienist and I used to make an effort to stand up when I saw my patients. I have gotten out of the habit and this was a nice little reminder!

  24. says

    I wish I could stand more. However counseling while standing doesn’t always come off warm and inviting. So I walk around as much as possible during the day. Still my SI acts up ALL the time from so much sitting. Ugg.

    BTW good luck tomorrow! Rock it out!
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  25. says

    I do think sitting that much is bad. I have a fairly sedentary job, but we do have a “standing terminal” at our reference desk, where I spend about half my time at work–so hopefully that helps.

    I’m intrigued by what you say about your butt pain disappearing when you installed your stand-up desk. Even with my stronger abs and glutes from PT, I still get niggling piriformis pain. Do you think that’s from too much sitting? I’m going to ask my PT about it at my next appointment–boy, I’d love to make this pain in the butt a thing of the past.
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  26. says

    This is so awesome because it is so true. I worked with a guy about 5 years ago that did all his work standing up. Put the chair in the corner of his office and never sat down. I adopted it and it worked for me too and I loved it. I was more attentive to what the other person was saying and able to be more creative.

    I think that once we sit for that long it is not just our bodies that sag but our brains as well. Great post.
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  27. says

    Oddly enough, I asked once if I could bring in a ball to sit on during work. I was told firmly “No!” It was “unprofessional”. Right after that my boss and coworker went out and had a smoke next to our front door. Really?

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  28. says

    Thanks for demonstrating how easy it is to change our habits. Mounting a shelf! How simpe! Have you come across any studies that have measured the activation levels of the deep postural muscles while sitting in half and full lotus? I’m curious how they compare to conventional sitting or standing. Does sitting on the floor or squatting lead to the same shut down of metabolism that sitting in an office chair or in front of a TV does? For example, would active sitting on this Yoga Chair, ( a difference in measures of sedentariness?