Get Out of Your Chair Alive

March 04, 2013

Not sure if you’ve heard the news, but sitting is bad for you.  You live in a body created for – and best served by – regular movement. 

I’m not talking about intense exercise, just movement.  We aren’t meant to be still during long periods of our waking hours and we really aren’t meant to be sitting for long periods.

The big news splash last year on this topic revealed that if you sit for more than 6 hours a day, you are 40% more likely to die within 15 years than someone who sits less than 3 hours a day – even if you exercise!

With more and more labor engineered out of jobs, we sit more than we do anything else. We average 9.3 hours a day, compared to 7.7 hours of sleeping.  Here are some more fun stats to scare you out of your seat. 

When you sit:

  • Your calorie burning rate drops to one per minute
  • Enzymes that break down fat drop by 90%
  • After 2 hours, your good cholesterol levels drop 20% (since it’s not needed when less active)

And more fun with numbers…

  • Obese people sit for 2.5 more hours per day than thin people (This is just a stat/fact – not a statement of cause and effect: It could be that once you become obese, you tend to sit more.)
  • Between 1980 and 2000:  Exercise rates were constant; sitting time increased by 8%; obesity doubled

Sitting vs. Smoking: Which is worse?

The death rate for obesity in the US is now 35 million.  It’s 3.5 million for tobacco.  Smoking is finally illegal inside of most public buildings – perhaps sitting should be as well given these statistics!  Just kidding, of course. 

I know what you’re thinking:  “Okay.  I get it! Sitting is bad for me.  But what do I do about this?”  I’m so glad you asked.

  1. Just get up more.  Take stretch breaks.  Set a timer if you have to.  Have walking meetings (If you’re in charge of leading meetings, then be a leader!)
  2. Undo what gets tight from sitting.  When you get up, stretch the front of your shoulders, the front of your hips, and the back of your thighs.
  3. Invest in a stand-up desk.  I finally did.  When I began a shift from strictly personal training to writing books and articles, consulting, and planning/delivering fitness presentations, I began to spend a lot more time seated at the computer.  Yes, even a full-time fitness professional was sitting too much!

There are a number of options for a stand-up desk.  You can get either an entire desk that elevates or an add-on to the desk which allows for keeping your existing desk.  The latter option is often significantly less expensive than the former. 

If you’re interested in investing in a standing desk, check out these companies: Ergotron and Ergo Desktop.

It is very easy to change from standing to sitting (for those times when you just really need or want to sit) and the ability to stand keeps my mind much sharper while at the computer.

The Bottom Line

You can’t sit for most of the day if you want to be healthy and live long.  If simply getting up more often can provide health benefits, then we should all take a stand for our health.  


Jonathan Ross — fitness expert for Discovery Fit & Health and creator of Aion Fitness — was voted Exercise TV's "Top Trainer" and named in Men's Journal magazine's list of Top 100 Trainers in America. His personal experiences with obesity — "800 pounds of parents" — directly inspired his fitness career. His ability to bring fitness to those who need it the most has made him a two-time Personal Trainer of the Year Award-Winner (ACE and IDEA). His book, Abs Revealed, is filled with cutting-edge exercises in a modern, intelligent approach to abdominal training. His leadership and fresh perspectives on fitness earn him praise as a frequent go-to source of credible fitness information.

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