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Standing Up for Your Health

Prolonged daily sitting is associated with a shorter lifespan, even in those who exercise regularly. Standing and treadmill desks are two potential solutions for office workers.

November 21, 2012 |
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A study published last year in the journal of the American Heart Association linked TV watching, with death. “Television viewing time was associated with increased risk of all-cause and CVD mortality.” Video-game playing too. So do you have to kill your TV before it kills you? They don’t think it was the TV itself, but just a proxy for sedentary behavior, but of course not all sedentary behavior is bad. Sleeping isn’t, and you can’t get more sedentary than that. In fact not getting a good night’s sleep “may to be a novel and independent risk factor for obesity.” 43 studies reviewed and the majority of forward looking studies have associated spending much of the day sitting with a shorter lifespan. And what's crazy is that “time spent sitting was independently associated with total mortality, regardless of physical activity level.” Heart disease mortality was significantly elevated even in people who otherwise exercised regularly. So just going to the gym after your desk job may not eliminate the risks sitting around all day, something our bodies never evolved to do. So, if we can, we shouldn’t sit down on the job and instead try thinking on our feet. Whether high tech… or low tech, consider a standing desk for reading the newspaper, watching TV, paying bills—whatever tasks we might otherwise do sitting down. Or even better slide a treadmill under there. Here's my crazy contraption. It's just lots of duct tape and bungie cords. I can usually get in a good 15 miles a day. Bottom-line: We need to stand up, for our health.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr.
Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation
of the audio contributed by Ashley Rhinehart, RN.

To help out on the site please email volunteer@nutritionfacts.org

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

Though right now I'm writing this sitting on my butt in a plane, that treadmill is where most of the NutritionFacts,org magic happens. However, before you try standing or treadmilling all day, make sure you have good footwear—learn from my mistake! More on the benefits of physical activity in Exercise & Breast Cancer and Reversing Cognitive Decline, keeping in mind that what we eat may be more important. See Is it the Diet, the Exercise, or Both? and What Women Should Eat to Live Longer.

For some context, please check out my associated blog post: Treadmill Desks: Stand Up For Health

If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • Guest

    test

  • luveggies

    can you give a little more detail about what your footwear mistake was?

  • lkthomps

    yay!!! I’ve been waiting for a video post about this topic!!! Thank you!

  • Richard Aiken

    Dr. Greger, terrific idea – I hadn’t seriously thought of this previously. 15 miles per day is a lot! Do you walk slowly, walk briskly, jog, or run; or a combination of these. Do you primarily read or can you actually type; or do you use speech
    recognition? Do you monitor your heart rate or time per mile? Do you supplement this with other more vigorous cardio or weight training? Thanks!

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/ Michael Greger M.D.

      The fastest I’ve been able to work up to and still type is 2.5mph–and that’s after bungie-cording a weight belt around my waist to the thing for stability. I’m loving the new mac OS which has a voice dictation function, but am slow to get the hang of it. The only time I really get my heart rate up these days is biking to NIH. And the only strength training I allow myself time for is sneaking in sets of push-ups while something’s in the microwave or elastic band stretching while I pee or in the car stopped at stoplights. Anyone have any other creative ideas for exercise that takes no time away from uploading daily videos?

      • Richard Aiken

        You remind me of my surgery rotations when I would practice efficient surgical knot ties (one and two handed) on the steering wheel at stoplights. Some ideas for exercising at other down-times: grocery cart speeding in parking lot (look out for traffic!); flexing muscles at any time – eg calves while standing doing dishes, butt while walking upstairs, arms when reaching for objects; squats while brushing teeth; auto time is really wasteful – great for listening to audiobooks but also can stretch and flex; if on the cell phone use
        that as a time to move – pacing around your desk or up and down stairs – if you become breathless, you might explain to the caller; and there is always double time while doing any activity – putting on clothes, walking to car. However, also schedule time to zero-task “just don’t do something, sit there”.

      • BPCveg

        Well, if you are really as hard-core as you seem, then you could do seated squats while doing your number two in the restroom:

        http://www.drbishop.ca/index.cfm/fuseaction/content/contentID/35-The-Squat

      • guy_from_Austria

        I would really appreciate a more detailed description of how your treadmill-desk is constructed and what factors there are that have to be kept in mind when buying such a desk. You seem to have a lot of experience. :)

      • HemoDynamic, M.D.

        That’s commitment baby!! Elastic band stretching while you pee?!? Can you still keep your aim? If not, you’re keeping limber by bending down cleaning up the spray! Just precious!

  • Billy Baker

    Ooh, I’m tagging this one for our health talk at our schools agm. A number of us admins spend a long hours on our rumps.
    One great suggestion at this years meeting was rather than walking on a treadmill, standing on a balance board. A board with a small section of PVC pipe is all you need to activate your entire body while you work.
    Another great point brought up is that when you get tired, you take a break which is good. Rather than taking a break from sitting and staring, to do…

  • thissal

    There might be another explanation other than just sitting too much. Could it be there is something wrong with those who want or need to sit most of the time? A good control might be how much of that sitting time is enforced by job restrictions and how much of it is by choice?

  • HowardZen

    I feel so overwhelmed I don’t know where to start. My job forces me to sit all day but am thinking of at least using a rolling ball chair. My legs hurt so much now from standing and I probably wear the worst shoes. What are the best? Is there a good way to work towards standing more? Is it like walking, a little at a time? Can it be reversed at all? My husband just died of massive heart attack which is how I found your sight. I have been reading everything I can and my eyes are open and I want changes in my life.

  • HemoDynamic, M.D.

    That’s awesome to see you are walking a out 15 miles per day doing your work. Or should I say ‘F’itness/Work or combined = Fork. Gives another meaning to Forks over Knives. ;-)

  • lottsagreens

    What are your thoughts on the “Perils of Standing” cited by Cornell University Ergonomics Web? They include: (1) increased progression of carotid atherosclerosis (for men with ischemic heart disease); (2) increased risk of varicose veins; and (3) increased risk of musculoskeletal disorders like carpal tunnel syndrome. Here’s the article: http://ergo.human.cornell.edu/CUESitStand.html. Are there any relevant studies yet on the benefits/drawbacks to doing computer work while standing/walking?

  • Keane

    What about a stationary bike desk? You’d have more stability and you’re legs would work as much or more than on a treadmill, but then again you would be still sitting. Is it really the standing that is important or the exercise?

  • LIfeVeg

    Does this study include diet? Geez, I’ve been vegan (organic whole food, not processed junk food) for 22 years and now I have to worry that my 8 hour a day sitting job is going to kill me in spite of all my exercise and eating right? Are vegans at the same risk? We’ve known for a long time that vegetarians live longer than omnivores and that vegans live longer than vegetarians. So why lump us all together in this study? Doesn’t seem fair to say that a omni couch potato is the same as a life long vegan couch potato.

  • bodbud

    Is it helpful for those like me who work a full-time desk job (yet I compete in figure competitions so am VERY athletic) to be sure to stand at a certain frequency?

  • Monica

    I would much rather stand than sit but standing still in one spot and not moving kills my knees. Is standing still better than sitting on the joints? Can standing still be harmful?

  • Oxana

    After watching this video I grabbed my laptop with all the wires to the place where I can stand and enjoy surfing internet while being home. It’s pity that I cannot do the same at work :(

    THANK YOU FOR THE IDEA!!! I was waiting for it long time!

  • Adrien

    NO WAY !! I’m shocked. I learned about standing desks, but a treadmill ! Is Michael Greger the healthiest man on the planet ?

  • Sebastian Tristan

    15 miles per day is impressive.