Sitting Ourselves to Death

By: Grace Wang and Dr. Chris E. Stout for ATI Physical Therapy

Sitting Ourselves to DeathWhether we’re driving, sitting at our desks, or reclining in front of the television after a long day in the office, humans spend more time seated than ever before in history. The sedentary lifestyle is a relatively new phenomenon – even just a decade or two ago, people “ran” errands, and now the vast majority of them can be completed without even standing up.

Sedentarism may be young, but it is dangerous, even deadly, according to scientists and researchers like Dr. James Levine, who is the inventor of the treadmill desk and the director of the Obesity Solutions Initiative at Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University. “Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV, and is more treacherous than parachuting,” Levine said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “We are sitting ourselves to death.”

Before you start thinking that Levine is using exaggeration to make a point, know that others agree with him. Research has shown that prolonged sitting increases the risk of muscular problems, several types of cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Indeed, the mantra “sitting is the new smoking”, coined by Dr. Levine himself, is proving to be true.

So what can we do? For those of us who work office jobs, sitting might seem like a non-negotiable. However, with a little imagination (and in some cases, a lot of not caring what other people might think of you), even cubicle-dwellers can fight against sedentarism.

1. Buy a standing desk. Or even make one, if you’re the crafty type! They’re not difficult to find at stores like IKEA, or you can get some inspiration from VARIDESK . Chris Stout, the VP of Research and Data Analytics at ATI Physical Therapy has a standing desk. “I find it makes a big difference in my productivity and mood. I’ll proof or practice a presentation standing and it’s a great way to break up the otherwise endless sitting.

2. Take a walk. Instead of surfing the web during your breaks, use that time to take a walk. According to WebMD and exercise physiologist Fabio Comana, a brisk, 15-minute walk is not only healthy, but it also increases productivity. Julie Roper, Vice President of Business Performance Management at ATI Physical Therapy says: