January 10, 2012

Sitting Is The New Smoking

The above image is taken from a great infographic on Techcrunch

It's message is simple: The more you sit, the worse you'll feel.  Recent studies suggest that of all of our bad contemporary habits, sitting all day is a killer.  With the rise of the information age, more of us earn a living sitting down, working on computers.  Our parents were more likely to sit less than a quarter as much as us and their parents more even less sedentary.  

So why isn't this post titled, "Cube Farms Are The New Coal Mines" ??? 

Because sitting all day is your choice, not your fate.  You can beat this disease risk by tweaking the way you work.  It's my 2012 resolution to sit at least fifty percent less than I did last year.  That's just as good as kicking my weekly french fries or losing ten pounds!  Here are several ways you can sit less and live longer: 

1.  Stand Up While Working On Computers.
 There are several great standing desks, including hydrolic ones where you can sit (during meetings with others) or stand.  My old boss at Yahoo, Anil, had his desk permanently setup where he stood while he worked.  He had a tall stool for those times he needed to take a load off.  He also had a foot rest, as this is the proper way to work on computers while standing.  If you can't do any of this, yet work on a laptop, occassionally pull it out of your docking station or off your desk and work on a bar counter or some other standing friendly surface.  

2. Talk Daily Walking Breaks.  Walking is great exercise, and according to many doctors, a great prescription for too much sitting.  Each day I carve out 20-30 minutes for 'walk-time' either outside or on a treadmill at my gym.  When walking outside, I frequently conduct my daily (no-paperwork or web access required) phone calls.  It's made a huge difference both in terms of my health and my mood state when I was finished. 

3. Convert Work Into Walking.  Conduct phone calls or meetings standing up and/or walking around.  (You'll have shorter ones as a result!) Take the stairs at work instead of the elevator.  Get up out of your chair to ask a quick question of a colleague, instead of sending an email 200 feet.  

Change your habits, and beyond health, you'll be better at work.  To be creative and confident, the formula for excellence, you need to feel good.  Sitting all day drains your energy, creates distracting physical pain and reduces your endurance.  And it's your choice.  You quit smoking, and don't miss the smoking breaks - you won't miss sitting either!




That is really a good idea. Using treadmills while working :)


Thanks for your post Shane. I've been following your work ever since "Love is the Killer App". 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(http://mysoulseat.com/), make a difference in measures of sedentariness?


It is helpful though, I'm really confused if it is safe to use a treadmill desk, I just want to know what are the safety methods when using treadmill desk.


After reading this article, I need to stop sitting so much while I do work from home. I think I may purchase one of those standing computer desks. I never knew how bad it is for you to sit all day.


very interesting post! Bookmarked


Your post has got me thinking add the treadmill to the power grid.


Your post has got me thinking add the treadmill to the power grid. world problems solved.


As I sit here with serious back and neck pain (despite being in pretty good shape) this article is hitting me like a ton of bricks!

I spend at least 8 hours a day sitting at a desk and it is taking it's toll after 14 years.

Time to make a change.


Great topic! I recently converted to a standing desk setup and have been amazed how much more active I feel -- not only physically but also mentally throughout the day. Creative ideas flow more readily when I'm standing and moving... especially in contrast to sitting, feeling strapped to one spot.


CV - These are great resources, thanks so much for making this comment.


This is a great analogy, and helps us see 'sitting' as the serious wellness challenge that it is. Thanks for this post- I'll share it with colleagues.

I have a few tools like a timeout feature on my iMac and a new fitbit, but what I like best is a new app called Hotseat. It's all about getting up from the chair, for a simple 5 minute movement, and lets me do it with a work buddy for the extra KITA.

There are collateral benefits too...a chance to step out of the my work and ask 'is this the best use of my time?' Connecting a mental refresher to the standing up activity doubles the value.


Yeah, I could see that!

I often wonder how well I'd do on a treadmill, trying to type.


My employer considers a treadmill desk to be safety hazard. I guess I have a higher risk of falling off it than getting healthy exercise.

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