When sitting leads to standing
July 1st, 2011
09:13 AM ET

When sitting leads to standing

Last week I wrote – while standing up – an article about how sitting for hours carries negative health consequences. Then I sat down. Soon after that, I walked to another floor of the CNN Center.

The freedom to mix it up like that makes me a happier person, and I’m so grateful to have those options. I feel unleashed from the chair when its comfort spoils into inertia, and then welcomed back when my legs want a break.

Medical studies like the ones appearing every day on The Chart are exciting because they inform us about the best practices and the potential for living healthier and longer lives. Still, every study is ultimately just evidence, and individuals have to reach conclusions about what to do.

For me, I never thought much about the chair either way until I was truly bound to it. My first job out of college was floor directing in the studio for HLN’s talented Robin Meade. That’s an active job for an active show. I was always on my feet – shouting to Robin how much time she had left until suddenly the camera’s red light would flash on, and her smile would arrive in all those homes.

After that, my next job required sitting at a desk, and for the first time in my life I wasn’t walking across a campus every couple of hours, or standing in a TV studio. For me, it wasn’t a matter of weighing scientific evidence; my body told me loud and clear: Get up from your chair!

The sitting article drew a lot of comments and a lot of page views, so here are some highlights:

“People in the developed nations especially here in the U.S. have become so sedentary. I walk to my supermarket, a round trip is about 3 miles, and when I tell people this they gasp.” – odioustoilet

“Damage cannot be undone by exercise? How much exercise? Walking for twenty minutes or Ironman Triathlon training? Most people don’t get enough exercise, so I question this conclusion.” – NGNHTAY

PaulMc111878’s answer helps clarify the findings for NGNHTAY:

“The finding is that sitting for long periods of time makes you vulnerable to a short life, REGARDLESS of how much you otherwise exercise...The trick is to REDUCE the amount of time spent sitting, not just exercise when you’re not sitting.” – PaulMc111878

Another commenter points out the difficulty of making changes to some work environments:

“As a pilot I don’t think I work in the kind of environment that would allow a treadmill-hybrid workstation, but I would love to see them try to install that in a cockpit.” – txgi307

Ditto for bus and truck drivers.

“OMG. I would love to have one of those treadmill computer holder things at work. We’re tied to our computers umbilical cord for 8 hours cause it’s a phone center. That would be awesome and so helpful.” – MissAlex01

“After doing IT for 16+ years, that’s one of the main reasons I’m going back to school to get a degree in Kinesiology. I just couldn’t take sitting by a desk anymore.” – Guest

“Can anyone locate the said study? I can’t find it anywhere. Thanks for providing a link CNN. Guess we should all take ACS and CNN’s word for it instead of being able to see it ourselves. Awesome.” – spfalk

Here it is spfalk. 🙂

soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. Marc

    Yes! I agree, I would love to do my job while standing and even walking a treadmill, even if was only part of the day.

    July 1, 2011 at 12:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lisa

      Check out the StandnSit from StandinGoodHealth.com. They also have a facebook page.

      July 2, 2011 at 08:54 | Report abuse |
    • TrekDesk

      You would be surprised how your body feels just moving throughout the day but even just for two hours can make a beneficial impact. Once you get moving though your body is not going to want to sit at all.

      October 5, 2011 at 19:38 | Report abuse |
  2. Princezz

    OMG I just started a new job on Monday (just graduated). On day ONE I pulled a back muscle while SITTING in one of the office chairs. Ergonomics SMERGONOMICS!

    July 1, 2011 at 13:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. klebinek

    Ones who stand for a living would like to sit and vice versa, you're lucky if you get what you want now a days. http://crohnsdiseasediagnosis.blogspot.com/

    July 1, 2011 at 15:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Anonymous

      It's like that for everything. You always want what you don't have; the grass is greener on the other side; blah blah blah. Age old story.

      July 1, 2011 at 21:47 | Report abuse |
  4. circulatory system

    I've inherited a tendency from the other women in my family to get spider and varicose veins; my mother worked on her feet for years and has them terribly. I worked on my feet for over five years until I finished college and got a "real" (read: desk) job, and have a nasty spider vein and the beginnings of a varicose on one calf from the years of walking/carrying things. So, how to work standing up without getting those awful purple and/or bulging veins is the question for me...

    July 1, 2011 at 15:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • thezenafile

      See an acupuncturist. There are simple things they can do to help you reduce or remove the veins.

      July 2, 2011 at 12:41 | Report abuse |
  5. RobS

    "The freedom to mix it up like that makes me a happier person, and I’m so grateful to have those options."

    I agree very much. Unfortunately, the 'office' culture interprets all time not sitting at your desk as goofing off. That was my experience in desktop support when I was assisting people at their workstation instead of writing reports at my desk. That has to change and we need to move around a little more to be truly productive. Besides, many people aren't able to sit on their duff 8 hours a day. Now that I consider lazy.

    July 1, 2011 at 16:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lisa

      I use the StandnSit from StandinGoodHealth.com. It allows you to stand at your existing workstation when you want to and folds away when you need to sit down.

      July 2, 2011 at 08:56 | Report abuse |
  6. nikki

    I work in a warehouse for anywhere from 8 to 10 a hours a day, I'm on my feet standing on concrete for that long, I'm also trained in the office and in all honesty I would rather be standing on concrete all day.. 🙂

    July 1, 2011 at 16:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Younan MarketingAnd Management Associates Inc, Int'l Intst'r

    why didn't you post what i clicked to post idiots

    July 2, 2011 at 01:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Dr Zen

    Thank you for the excellent article. It couldn't have come at better time for me as I work at home and was in a creative rut.

    Over the last month or so, the topic of standing while working at your computer kept coming up in articles I've read. The first time my reaction was "that's stupid", but by the time I read your article, I was willing to try anything. That night I MacGyvered a standing workstation by ripping apart my desk and elevating the table top on some milk crates 😉

    As simple as it sounds, the change in posture has given me more energy and focus. I've crashed thru my creative barrier and am far more productive. Weird thing is that I think standing predisposes you to be more focused and confident. Sitting too much just slows you down and almost puts you to sleep. That being said, standing does get tiring after a while, but I just replaced my old chair with a drafting chair and sit intermittently when I am tired.

    July 2, 2011 at 02:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Lisa

    I use a StandnSit, desktop workstation from StandinGoodHealth that allows me to stand at my desk all day long if I want to. It also folds down and enables me to sit when I need to. Great Product available at http://www.standingoodhealth.com.

    July 2, 2011 at 08:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Cyd

    I also use the StandnSit desktop from StandinGoodHealth. It makes it so easy to convert from one or the other (standing or sitting) and really helps my lower back pain. It is a great product, and not very expensive. http://www.standingoodhealth.com

    July 2, 2011 at 10:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Tori

    As an art student, I spend most of my day standing at an easel or in a darkroom. I also work writing parking citations on campus. I'm an older, non-traditional student, and I'm so tired of these young, healthy students acting like it's a chore to have to walk across a campus. I finally told a resident on campus when he complained about the ticket he got for parking in a commuter only spot in front of the library that I was 42 years old, overweight, and I was still capable of walking for two hours at a time in the heat, writing tickets for people like him too lazy to walk what amounted to two blocks across the campus. I don't really think he got what I was saying, but wow, the younger generation is lazy.

    July 2, 2011 at 11:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Lisa


    July 2, 2011 at 12:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. The_Mick

    I began bike riding for exercise a month a ago and this morning rode a mountain bike 8 miles on the BWI Airport trail. The bike, accessories, and I weigh 320 lbs and my GPS watch/heart monitor says I burned 1144 Calories. I'm sitting the rest of the day!

    July 2, 2011 at 15:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • TrekDesk

      Great that you are getting the exercise but according to the Pennington Biomedical Research Center you cannot undue the damage of sitting all day with an hour or two work out. Sound counter intuitive? Dr. Marc Hamilton has coined a new phrase calling anyone who works out and then sits at a desk the rest of the day as "active couch potatoes." Look at the evidence and it will change your habits.

      October 5, 2011 at 19:35 | Report abuse |
  14. Katie

    Modern humans past the age of two or three have lost our connection with our body's natural design. There's a reason some women in the world are able to successfully carry heavy loads on their heads with ease: they have never lost the natural alignment that every healthy baby discovers in order to become upright. Ultimately, it doesn't matter if you sit or stand but HOW you sit or stand. A visual example of this can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6oTfN5NDQWE Also lots more information at http://www.NaturalPostureSolutions.com The implications for health go far beyond the usual aches and pains.

    July 2, 2011 at 21:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • TrekDesk

      Katie, it simply is not true that sitting is healthy. There may be a better way to sit that is less damaging but sitting leads to premature death pure and simple. Movement is critical to health. You will be amazed at the damage sitting is doing to you once you start researching the topic.

      October 5, 2011 at 19:33 | Report abuse |
  15. em

    Still can't read the article without paying $40...

    July 3, 2011 at 02:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. jopsjennings

    So if your health gets destroyed by sitting for more than 2 hours straight, what happens if you lie all the way down for 8 hours?

    July 3, 2011 at 18:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. TrekDesk

    It is really basic evolutionary science here. Standing is healthier than sitting and walking is healthier than standing. What ever you can do to get out of a chair is critical for your health. Don't believe it? We have more than a hundred articles that will convince you on a website known as TrekDesk. Read the evidence and then decide for yourself: Is sitting killing you? Science now equates sitting as damaging as smoking.

    October 5, 2011 at 19:30 | Report abuse | Reply
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    September 18, 2016 at 02:11 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.