People + Process = Performance

Sitting Kills, Standing is Bad, Walking Constantly is Impractical—So What’s A Person To Do?

If you’re like most people, myself included, you probably spend a good portion of your day in a seated position. Avoiding sitting is very difficult these days, as computer work predominates.  In addition, you may spend many hours each week driving to and from work.

The research is growing that suggests sitting for extended periods of time is an independent risk factor for poor health and premature death. Even if you are very fit and exercise regularly, if you uninterruptedly sit for a great percentage of the time, you’re still at an increased risk of dying prematurely.

Research by the NASA scientist responsible for monitoring the astronauts, Dr. Joan Vernikos, shows that our body declines rapidly when sitting for prolonged periods of time.  She has written a book called Sitting Kills, Movement Heals.

The crux of her research shows that simply standing up over 30 times a day is a powerful remedy for prolonged periods of sitting and is more effective than taking a walk during work breaks or standing for 30 minutes at one time. This was based on double-blind research where volunteers would spend four days in bed to induce detrimental changes. She then tested two groups to see which was more effective, walking or standing, and how long would you have to walk or how many times do you have to stand up to get better again?

  • Standing up once every hour was more effective than walking on a treadmill for 15 minutes for cardiovascular and metabolic changes
  • Sitting down and standing up repeatedly for 32 minutes does NOT have the same effect as standing up once, 32 times over the course of a day. To get the benefit, the stimulus must be spread throughout the day

What does this mean for employers?  It means a perfectly acceptable strategy to increase employee wellness is to teach and encourage your sedentary employees to stand up frequently during the day.  Of course, employers can provide sit-stand workstations for their employees to they can be productive while standing, but with this caveat—prolonged standing is just as harmful as prolonged sitting.  Anyone in retail or on an assembly line will tell you that standing has negative consequences.

What does this mean to you?  Simply Move!  From this perspective, there are numerous opportunities for movement throughout the day—from cleaning the house, to organizing the garage, to cooking, to gardening to even just standing up for several seconds every 10-15 minutes.

Bottom line:  It’s not how many hours of sitting that’s bad for you; it’s how often you interrupt that sitting that is GOOD for you!