Standing Up for Your Health

Standing Up for Your Health
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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.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

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 [cardiovascular disease] 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 rather a proxy for sedentary behavior. But, of course, not all sedentary behavior is bad.

Look; sleeping isn’t, and you can’t get more sedentary than that. In fact, not getting a good night’s sleep may be “a novel and independent risk factor for obesity.” Forty-three 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 “the 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 of sitting around all day. It’s 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, basically. I can usually get in a good 15 miles a day. Bottom line, we need to stand up, for our health.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

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 [cardiovascular disease] 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 rather a proxy for sedentary behavior. But, of course, not all sedentary behavior is bad.

Look; sleeping isn’t, and you can’t get more sedentary than that. In fact, not getting a good night’s sleep may be “a novel and independent risk factor for obesity.” Forty-three 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 “the 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 of sitting around all day. It’s 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, basically. I can usually get in a good 15 miles a day. Bottom line, we need to stand up, for our health.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to dietbruboyginatrapaniShreyans Bhansali; and massdistraction via flickr; and HandsettBattery

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 further context, 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.

41 responses to “Standing Up for Your Health

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  1. 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!




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    1. 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?




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      1. 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”.




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      2. 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. :)




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      3. 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!




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  2. 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…




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  3. 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?




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  4. 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.




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  5. 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. ;-)




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  6. 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?




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    1. There’s a difference between standing and walking. Standing is a well known cause for varicose veins which are more common in people with professions that require standing (dentists and teachers come to mind)




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  7. 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?




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  8. 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.




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    1. If you do regular exercise and are following a good(variety, nonGMO) whole food plant based diet with adequate B12 intake you should be able to tolerate and do well with a desk job. I like to remind my patients that being fit has 5 dimensions (aerobic, strength, flexibility, stability and balance) of course sleep and relaxation contribute to health. You might enjoy videos… http://nutritionfacts.org/video/is-it-the-diet-the-exercise-or-both/ and http://nutritionfacts.org/video/diet-or-exercise-whats-more-important-for-weight-loss/ or the blog post… http://nutritionfacts.org/2013/01/17/diet-vs-exercise-whats-more-important/ . I think that nutrition is more important than exercise if I had to choose which of course you don’t. Of course keep tuned to NutritionFacts.org as the science keeps coming…




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  9. 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?




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  10. 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?




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  11. 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!




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  12. This must be devastating for truck drivers, they spend long hours in the driver seat, is there an interval suggested for these kind jobs?? how much sitting compared to counteracting activity, could HIIT be used to win the battle of being planted on your butt? (HIIT High intensity Interval Training).




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  13. Thank you for the info, but what if a persons has Type II Diabetes plus Lupus that plays havoc with their joints making walking very difficult. What exercise can they do that will help them to loose weight? He wants to loose weight, but is very discouraged because of the meds and insulin put pounds on. Any help would be appreciated.




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    1. Vades: If the meds are at least part of the problem, I have a thought for you: I don’t know a lot about Lupus, but I know a lot about Type 2 Diabetes and how most people can get off their meds. See if you can get your friend to get the book, “Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes: The scientifically proven system for reversing diabetes without drugs”. The first part of the book is text explaining what works to get diabetics off their meds (as least a great deal of the time) and *why*. The second part of the book has recipes. Even if this diet does nothing to help with the Lupus, it couldn’t hurt. And getting rid of half of his problems would be a big deal I would think.

      In addition to the above book, which I *highly* recommend, here are some resources to help with losing weight. I highly recommend them.
      1) check out a free lecture available on line by Dr. Lisle. It will really help him understand what the issue really is:
      “How To Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind”
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xAdqLB6bTuQ

      2) Jeff Novick’s DVD, “Calorie Density; Eat More, Weigh Less and Live Longer” is a wonderful supplement to the above video. Those two videos together really helped me to understand what needs to happen to lose weight. Also check out Jeff’s DVDs in the Fast Food series. Great, affordable food that is easy to make. All of these are available on Amazon. Here is the first one:
      http://www.amazon.com/Calorie-Density-More-Weigh-Less/dp/B003ASP6JE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1392424210&sr=8-1&keywords=calorie+density%3B+eat+more

      3) Have your friend consider going through the free 21 Day Kickstart program by PCRM. They will hold your hand for 21 days, including meal plans, recipes, videos, inspirational messages, and a forum where you can ask questions.
      http://www.pcrm.org/kickstartHome/
      (Click the green “Register Now” button.)

      Hope that helps.




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      1. Thea. thank you so much for the information. I will certainly check out the books and the online info. My friend gets so discouraged especially when the doctors tell him he needs to loose weight. He knows this, but they do nothing except tell him he needs to walk everyday. They just don’t seem to listen when he tells them about what the Lupus does to his joints. He did walk for about 2 months and he was in so much pain he just couldn’t continue. The doctor said he would give him cortisone shots, but he didn’t want to put any more meds in his body. He just wants to loose weight and be free of as much pain as possible. He did loose some weight, but he just couldn’t deal with the pain in his knees He doesn’t like taking pain meds, but they wouldn’t even touch the pain.

        Lupus is an autoimmune disease. It can attack the joints or the organs. His bother died because his Lupus attacked his organs, but my friend feels blessed because his Lupus is attacking his joints and not his organs. Before he was diagnosed with Lupus, I did some checking online and he had some of the symptoms of Lupus. His PCP didn’t believe he could have Lupus until he heard that his brother died of Lupus. Then and only then did his doctor send him to a specialist to be checked and sure enough he did have it too, but just not as severe as his brother.

        I haven’t checked online to find out if there is anything that we can do for the Lupus other than meds, but once we get the diabetes taken care of, I will research online for anything that can help him with the Lupus.

        Thank you again for the info and thank you for responding so quickly…..




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        1. Vades: Oh boy. It makes me so mad to hear stories like, “The doctor keeps telling me to do X, but it hurts and I can’t do it. He is is practically blaming me for my problem…” Ugh.

          I promise you, none of my suggestions involve walking or anything that should cause pain.

          I’ll also mention that I have other ideas too for losing weight. So, if he makes some progress with what I already suggested and then wants more suggestions, like cookbook recommendations, etc, let me know. I have some thoughts. ;-) I’m just full of it. I mean them. Ummmm.

          There really is a lot of hope for your friend, especially because he has you. I hope you will report back in the future and us know how it goes.




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          1. Thea, thank you for your encouraging words. I haven’t had a chance to get through all the info, but I will keep you posted on his progress in due time.




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  14. The footage of Dr Greger’s treadmill desk set up isn’t detailed enough. I can’t figure out where the front of the treadmill is (with the readings for speed, distance etc) in relation to his PC and keyboard. Can we get more detailed footage/photos of this please?




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  15. I really need some advice on this issue. I work at a computer desk all day as an artist. I can see how a job requiring writing, typing, calls, etc, can be done on a treadmill, but as an artist I need a steady hand as I create. Walking on a treadmill just wont work, and I need to put in an average of 12 hours day! Deadlines can be rough, sometimes I work for 16 hours with few breaks.




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  16. Hi! :) thank you for all of your amazing work, really appreciate it! :) So, I have a job where I have to sit on my ass for 8 hours, behind a computer. Also, when I get home I have to do a lot of extra work on my computer as well! Then you add some time behind the TV (because I can’t workout for hours until I go to sleep after that of course) and that is a loooot of sitting down every single day! I do not have money to buy a standing or treadmill desk (sure wish I could!) and there is zero chance of our workplace getting anything like that. Every day I have neck and back pains and that “I will have a nervous breakdown if I have to sit here another second” feeling! Also I know it is very bad for my health! I do some exercise at home, mainly weight lifting and I practice bellydance once a week, and also go for a walk whenever possible, but I do not have a lot of time. But that does not help, I still sit on my ass most of my day. I have no idea what to do to change this, I really wish I could just do something else in my life that does not result in sitting so much, but right now I have no other option :( Help please! Thank you so much!




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    1. LoveAnimalsEatPlants: I can’t remember for sure where I read this (maybe Dr Greger some where or maybe Jeff Novic), but one of the famous plant-based based talked about being in a similar situation to you. He would make himself get up 2? (5?) times an hour and walk around the floor for a minute. I don’t remember the exact number of times an hour, but the point is to break up your sitting time as often as possible with short bits of walking. Or you could do squats in place or something. (my idea) If your office culture would make this awkward, maybe you could make a lot of trips to the bathroom, the breakroom, to talk to someone (who’s office when you get there you just walk by), etc. ;-) Good luck.




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      1. Yes, that is what I will try first, getting up at least once an hour to stretch my legs and move around and at home, do some squats in between :) Thank you!




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    2. Hi, I am a volunteer for Dr. Greger. My first suggestion would be to create a “low-tech” standing desk, if at all possible, whether this be at work or at home. Using a counter top or desk with a chair or box to place a computer on can sometimes work. Additionally, if that is not possible, intermittently taking a break from sitting can also be beneficial. Just a minute or two every hour (or maybe a couple times an hour) of walking around or going up and down stairs would be beneficial to your arteries and overall health. So maybe you could try incorporating short breaks to get your body moving a little bit here and there.

      Additionally, drinking green tea every two hours, eating meals with lots of green leafy vegetables, and eating turmeric may be a few dietary methods to help maintain endothelial function in your blood vessels, and overall health. I hope this helps!




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      1. Hmm, maby I could try to do something at home to stand up while working, right now all I do is take a lot of breaks, and sometimes sit on the exercise ball, but at work I do not have options, sitting on my ass all day :( I am trying to take more breaks during work, at least once an hour if I can. I started using more turmeric and green tea so that’s great! :) How about lying down? Is that bad as well? For example if I watch a movie before going to bed..I just can’t work 8 hours at my job and then 2 hours at home and after that exercise till I go to sleep. I am tired and also..come on, who does that?! :) Thank you you for your advice!




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  17. This is a little frightening, since I work at a desk all day at my job! Would a little under-desk pedaler help enough to be work the trouble? I don’t have the treadmill option at my place of employment…




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  18. Just a quick question about other cultures like those found in the far east: traditionally zen and bushido are said to promote sitting on the floor either cross legged or in seiza – with appropriate use of cushions and proper “sitting technique”, mind you – have there been any real studies done to compare the effects of a different sitting posture compared to a typically western one due to the different alignments and decreased pressure on the internal organs resulting from that? Thank you!




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    1. Dear Maksimas Lajauskas, I am Christine, a NF volunteer. You raise an interesting question. Although I found no research on overall health effects of different sitting positions, I did find this study that might interest you. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Peter_OSullivan2/publication/6841931_Effect_of_Different_Upright_Sitting_Postures_on_Spinal-Pelvic_Curvature_and_Trunk_Muscle_Activation_in_a_Pain-Free_Population/links/0deec516189238dcad000000.pdf
      I would also be interested to know whether squatting, which is common in some cultures, would make a difference. I hope that helps!




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  19. In my business I sit, and I get up often to go into the shop and check on people or processes. If I work 8 hours, the most I’ll sit is six, the least is one hour. And I get up and down frequently to pull labels off the printer so even during the times I ams sitting I”m getting up and down. When I watch TV at home, I am always getting up and down to check on thing I’ve got going, like the fire in my wood burner or wash dishes at commercial breaks.

    What are your thoughts on this sort of mixed activities. Should I still consider standing when at work?




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    1. As a moderator on this site, I’m glad to know you are considering your status- sedentary or active. You are on the right path to be aware that you’ve been sitting for a while and to break long stretches of sitting. Yes, standing whether at work or at home is preferable, but most of us sit to relax and the fact that you get up regularly is what is important. Many ergonomic recommendations focus on breaking up sitting at least every 20 -30 minutes. Check out these studies that provide guidance on transitioning to more standing/movement, although I could not find a specific study that spelled out an interval of sitting to avoid:
      https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/06/02/medical-researchers-have-figured-out-how-much-time-is-okay-to-spend-sitting-each-day/?utm_term=.51fd92a52283
      http://www.cnn.com/2015/08/06/health/how-to-move-more/
      http://www.juststand.org/Portals/3/literature/ActiveWorkingExpertStatement.pdf
      http://www.medicaldaily.com/try-sit-stand-formula-every-30-minutes-avoid-health-consequences-sitting-all-day-355250




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