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from the mightiest pharaohs to the lowliest peasants
October 17, 2012 10:25 AM   Subscribe

Sitting is hazardous to your health. "The research, published in separate medical journals this month, adds to a growing scientific consensus that the more time someone spends sitting, especially in front of the television, the shorter and less robust his or her life may be."

"Using complex actuarial tables and adjusting for smoking, waist circumference, dietary quality, exercise habits and other variables, the scientists were next able to isolate the specific effect that the hours of sitting seemed to be having on people’s life spans. And the findings were sobering: Every single hour of television watched after the age of 25 reduces the viewer’s life expectancy by 21.8 minutes."
posted by roger ackroyd (116 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
33.7 minutes if it's CBS.
posted by delfin at 10:28 AM on October 17, 2012 [11 favorites]


I like to live dangerously.
posted by Jeff Mangum's Penny-farthing at 10:29 AM on October 17, 2012 [19 favorites]


Who wants to live that long anyway? Most grandparents i know want to die already. :P
posted by palbo at 10:29 AM on October 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


This seat is taken.
posted by Egg Shen at 10:30 AM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


the more time someone spends sitting, especially in front of the television, the shorter and less robust his or her life may be."

In unrelated news, the less robust someone's life is, the more time they spend sitting, especially in front of the television.
posted by headnsouth at 10:31 AM on October 17, 2012 [35 favorites]


I regret nothing.
posted by Redfield at 10:33 AM on October 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


idk, i regret the last season of Lost a whole lot
posted by elizardbits at 10:33 AM on October 17, 2012 [28 favorites]


I just did the math and you are already dead. Of course that's because Kenshiro hit you with the hundred hand slap, but...
posted by selfnoise at 10:34 AM on October 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Um... so does every single hour I sit at my desk working also reduce my life expectancy by 21.8 minutes? Because, yikes. I'm practically dead already.
posted by crackingdes at 10:35 AM on October 17, 2012 [10 favorites]


Gilmore girls to appear in the Hague on charges of crimes against humanity.

Just so heartwarming, testify survivors.
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:36 AM on October 17, 2012 [8 favorites]


This is why I prefer to lie on the couch when watching TV
posted by TedW at 10:36 AM on October 17, 2012 [55 favorites]


Just over a day then, for Star Trek the Original Series. Totally worth it.
posted by adamdschneider at 10:36 AM on October 17, 2012 [10 favorites]


Kill me now...pass the remote.
posted by briank at 10:38 AM on October 17, 2012


Do I earn hours back for episodes watched on the elliptical?
posted by elizardbits at 10:38 AM on October 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


If every 60 minutes of TV watching reduces my life expectancy by only 21.8 minutes, it would seem like I would be coming out ahead by watching TV. I wonder if doing other things while watching TV would produce the same results, because I'm not that in to TV.
posted by jefeweiss at 10:38 AM on October 17, 2012 [7 favorites]


I am of the opinion that sitting at my desk at my day job is what is ruining my life.
posted by nowhere man at 10:40 AM on October 17, 2012 [27 favorites]


If you actually create TV shows, though, you can run the odometer backwards. Make enough TV and you never die at all.
posted by Greg Nog at 10:40 AM on October 17, 2012 [9 favorites]


Every single hour of television watched after the age of 25 reduces the viewer’s life expectancy by 21.8 minutes.

But all my favorite shows are at least one hour long so I'm gaining 38.2 minutes. Suck on THAT, science!
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 10:41 AM on October 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hi, standing desk user here. Anecdota, but it's helped my lower back problems tremendously and I find I'm more focused.

Plus, the chicks dig it.
posted by digitalprimate at 10:41 AM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Double?
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:41 AM on October 17, 2012


But television viewing time is a useful, if somewhat imprecise, marker of how much someone is engaging in so-called sedentary behavior.

“People can answer a question like, ‘How much time did you spend watching TV yesterday?’ much better than a question like ‘How much time did you spend sitting yesterday?’


Has this person never heard of offices or computers?
posted by DU at 10:41 AM on October 17, 2012 [10 favorites]


Each hour of watching Honey Boo Boo = 44.5 minutes off your life expectancy.
posted by amazingstill at 10:43 AM on October 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


But standing all day gives you varicose veins, and walking wears out your knees, and...ARGGH!

Screw it. If I'm going to die young, at least it will be while I'm watching "Doctor Who".
posted by Larry Duke at 10:43 AM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


“People can answer a question like, ‘How much time did you spend watching TV yesterday?’ much better than a question like ‘How much time did you spend sitting yesterday?’

Uh. But yesterday I spent maybe an hour watching tv and about 7 sitting in front of a desk. So if you try to tell me that the one hour on the couch (screaming GET THE FUCK OUT at stupid mittens) is my problem, I will point and laugh at you.
posted by elizardbits at 10:45 AM on October 17, 2012 [20 favorites]


If it wasn't for treadmills no one would watch the Food Network
posted by The Whelk at 10:50 AM on October 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Could it be that those who have a propensity for sitting (or, idleness, in general) are genetically predisposed to die at an earlier age, anyway? This is something that the studies neglect to correlate? In fact, if my hypothesis is the case, people with that propensity might also be the sort of person who are more prone to injury - or worse - while exercising. We simply don't know.

I think it's probably good advice to get off one's duff, in general, but this study does not include key variables that make it bulletproof.
posted by Vibrissae at 10:55 AM on October 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


And lots of people who plop in front of TV for hours have bags of chips and sixes of beer at hand. Seems kind of Darwin Award-ish.
posted by scratch at 10:58 AM on October 17, 2012


This is bad news for me, because I watch TV 24/7.
So if I stop watching TV entirely, my life expectancy increases by 21.8 minutes per hour, or 8.72 hours every day.
That's 3182.8 hours or 132.6 days per year. Just enough to get me back to normal life expectancy. Whew! Glad I read this.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:04 AM on October 17, 2012


If you exercise for 30 minutes a day, she says, “take time to reflect on your activity levels for the remaining 23.5 hours,” and aim to “be active, sit less.”

I'm really excited about this plan where I can spend the day playing with the kids, gardening, working in the workshop and cleaning the house like I'd prefer while they send me $$$/month to live on.
posted by DU at 11:05 AM on October 17, 2012 [18 favorites]


Let me know when they figure out how much time you knock off your life when the study includes watching tv while shoving a whole bag of Doritios down your throat at the same time...then I'll take notice.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 11:07 AM on October 17, 2012


What does this mean for quads? They sit non-stop and have no exercise. For someone who sits for 16 hours a day reduces lifespan by 88 days a year, or roughly %25 of lifespan - worse case scenario.
posted by stbalbach at 11:08 AM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


We're gonna have a TV Party Tonight... ALRIGHT!
posted by symbioid at 11:08 AM on October 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm really excited about this plan where I can spend the day playing with the kids, gardening, working in the workshop and cleaning the house like I'd prefer while they send me $$$/month to live on.

You can just live off that heap of cash you have from not smoking.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:09 AM on October 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


My ass is killing me.
posted by orme at 11:09 AM on October 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


Move your meat
Lose your seat
(but at least you won't DIE!)
posted by stormpooper at 11:12 AM on October 17, 2012



Hi, standing desk user here. Anecdota, but it's helped my lower back problems tremendously and I find I'm more focused.

Plus, the chicks dig it.


No more under the desk blow jobs for you.
posted by stormpooper at 11:13 AM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


No more under the desk blow jobs for you.

I've already told metafilter what I do and don't shave here, so why not share that I'm not one to engage in this sort of under the desk behavior. However, if I were, I would be much preferring a decreased risk of cracking open my skull on the underside of furniture.

So, the standing desk would get my vote, just out of intrigue.

eponysterical. I know.
posted by bilabial at 11:23 AM on October 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


For those interested in sitting less in front of their computers but not wanting to fully give up the option to sit, I strongly recommend the Egotron WorkFit Sit-Stand solution, which I'm (standing) in front of now. I've tried the full day standing desk and it was pretty hard to stay focused. Having the option of a little bit of sitting to break up the standing has been the biggest reason by far doing this has been such a success for me.

My back is better and my physical health is better. I've been otherwise more active, but I do have a very strong hunch that my general improvements stem from the move to the sit-stand desk.
posted by mcstayinskool at 11:25 AM on October 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


So if you try to tell me that the one hour on the couch (screaming GET THE FUCK OUT at stupid mittens) is my problem, I will point and laugh at you.

If you spend an hour sitting down and watching TV but it increases your heart rate and blood pressure, do the health effects cancel out?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:30 AM on October 17, 2012


When i first saw the Ergotron desks I expected furniture that deduced Tron. My disappointment cannot be measured.
posted by srboisvert at 11:33 AM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


You've got to get up, get out and get something.
posted by cashman at 11:33 AM on October 17, 2012


I was skeptical when I saw this, and I'm still pretty skeptical about the degree of the effect that is claimed, but it seems like there are a fair number of studies of such things.

Like this one: Leisure Time Spent Sitting in Relation to Total Mortality in a Prospective Cohort of US Adults. (It's one the references in the paper that the FPP piece is based on.)

Looks like that one made a reasonable effort to factor out other possible explanations, but it's hard to tell how thoroughly or how well they succeeded without delving into it deeply. But at least they discovered and tried to take account of factors such as it seems that people who spend least time sitting are also less likely to smoke, more likely to be employed, tend to eat fewer calories etc. And tried to exclude the data from people who spend a lot of time sitting *because* they have health problems.

But you can also see how hard it is going to be think up things that should be factored out and prove a direction of causality.

Overall, I guess when people aren't sitting down they are probably moving about and doing something, which is likely to be good for them and/or indicate they are in good shape to begin with, so a correlation is to be expected.
posted by philipy at 11:44 AM on October 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sure, until you get pernicious plantar fasciitis.
posted by lumpenprole at 11:49 AM on October 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


Good thing I have a recliner, and thus spend my time lying down instead of sitting. This article gives me the evidence I need to convince my boss to let me have a recliner in my cubicle at work.
posted by XMLicious at 11:52 AM on October 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


It would really help us understand the issue of sitting better, by separating the cause-effect relationship. Does sitting impair health and reduce life span, or does poor health make people sitting more and live shorter?

I am begging you, dear researchers, please tell the cause and effect relationship when you use those moneys to get this research done.
posted by onkyo at 12:08 PM on October 17, 2012


Put me in a hammock and I guarantee my productivity will drop to zero, but I'll be so content and happy that you'll want to do it anyway, just from the happiness contact high it provides.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:08 PM on October 17, 2012


This is why I do all my work suspended from the ceiling.
posted by The Whelk at 12:09 PM on October 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


Did they include Buddhist monks in their data? I mean, sitting is their job and they seem to live quite a long time.
posted by Grangousier at 12:10 PM on October 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


headnsouth: In unrelated news, the less robust someone's life is, the more time they spend sitting, especially in front of the television.

Vibrissae: Could it be that those who have a propensity for sitting (or, idleness, in general) are genetically predisposed to die at an earlier age, anyway?

Yes and yes. I rarely pay attention to 'studies' that boldly declare "doing x means that you y." Won't someone take a freshman science or statistics class for Christ's sake?
posted by herbplarfegan at 12:10 PM on October 17, 2012


Anecdata: I'm a computer jockey for money. At my old place of employment I had a standing desk for a number of years - it was so awesome that I got one for home. Fixed back problems, IT band issues...had more energy etc. Definitely my preferred way to work. Fast forward to the future where my employer now requires a doctors note to have a standing desk. My joke doctor through my joke individual market 'health insurance' refuses to write me a note for a standing desk because I 'don't have diabetes or a condition that requires a standing desk.' I built a desk-top solution anyway at work and promptly got told by HR to take it down due to 'safety concerns.' Now I sit. Back problems have returned. IT band issues have returned. General malaise has returned. This is why I hate 21st century 'office culture.' This is why I hate health insurance companies (among myriad other reasons). Standing quite simply feels like a healthier thing to do for 12 hours a day (well, I had a tall stool...so switching between standing / sitting was what I was doing...and I feel like THAT is the ideal).

Did they include Buddhist monks in their data? I mean, sitting is their job and they seem to live quite a long time.

They also tend to the monastery...sweep, garden, etc. The walk a lot more. I would actually assume that Buddhist monks get more general exercise than most American Office Workers. Most folks I know go from sitting in their car on the way to work, to sitting at work, to sitting at home on the computer or watching TV... Sure they exercise...but like the study says...it's the other 23 hours that matter also...
posted by jnnla at 12:14 PM on October 17, 2012 [8 favorites]


"office culture" in general seems to be the root of so many ills.
posted by The Whelk at 12:17 PM on October 17, 2012 [10 favorites]


Egotron WorkFit Sit-Stand

That name is a joke, right?
posted by sourwookie at 12:23 PM on October 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would actually assume that Buddhist monks get more general exercise than most American Office Workers.

Most of the ones I have met, and I have met at least a hundred by now, have been wiry-looking, active, healthy dudes, regardless of age.
posted by elizardbits at 12:24 PM on October 17, 2012


the more time someone spends sitting, especially in front of the television, the shorter and less robust his or her life may be

I'm simply not going to stand for this...
posted by gallus at 12:25 PM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


So now I'm supposed to hold it in all the time, then? I thought that was bad for you!

...oh, sitting. Carry on.
posted by backseatpilot at 12:30 PM on October 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Most folks I know go from sitting in their car on the way to work, to sitting at work, to sitting at home on the computer or watching TV...

Hooray, I'm safe!

I take the bus.
posted by griphus at 12:32 PM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I find I can draft a lot easier standing up then sitting down, so I've always wanted a double set up, a standing drafting table and laptop area, both for tablet drawing and pivoting back and forth with.

Then again I'm the kind of jerk who, in the middle of writing something, will get up and do 30 jumping jacks cause I was sitting in one place too long.
posted by The Whelk at 12:36 PM on October 17, 2012


I find it interesting that all of these studies are pitched as "stop watching television." Instead of the more accurate (but presumably less realistic) "quit your desk job."

I can think of five or six possible reasons why this is the case. None of them are flattering to the reporters, the scientists, or our culture as a whole.
posted by ErikaB at 12:36 PM on October 17, 2012 [22 favorites]


(also man was keeping my weight under control easy when I was a bartender)
posted by The Whelk at 12:38 PM on October 17, 2012


You know, I am honestly wonder if a job exists that is not a desk job, pays as well and provides the same benefits as my desk job, and won't destroy my body (and force a career change) by the time I am 50. I literally can't think of any non-incredibly-specialized jobs that fulfill these requirements.
posted by griphus at 12:39 PM on October 17, 2012 [7 favorites]


It'd be great if they were actually called Egotrons.

Maybe the dastardly Egotrons can be the next villan in the Transformers.
posted by modernnomad at 12:40 PM on October 17, 2012


Hunger Games Tribute?
posted by The Whelk at 12:40 PM on October 17, 2012


"By comparison, smoking a single cigarette reduces life expectancy by about 11 minutes, the authors said."

So if I smoke 2 cigarettes an hour it's basically a wash, then?
posted by axoplasm at 12:43 PM on October 17, 2012


The damage done to the mind is far greater than that done the body by spending too much watching TV
posted by Postroad at 12:44 PM on October 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


In my experience, the same is true of most desk jobs.
posted by ErikaB at 12:46 PM on October 17, 2012


I work in a pharmacy, where the pharmacists and pharmacy techs are standing up almost all day, and almost half of them have back problems ranging from mild to very serious from standing all day. The biggest problem is the counter they work at is never the proper height for everyone. The taller ones want it higher and the short ones want it lower. I felt worst for this pre-Pharmacy school intern we had recently. The guy was about 6'6", in his twenties, and already had back problems from working at counters that were about a foot too short for him.

I guess if they each had standing desks that could be customized to their height it would be better, but getting a standing-up job is maybe not much better for your overall health than sitting.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:47 PM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


You can end up totally, irrationally obsessed with certain doe-eyed actors for one.
posted by The Whelk at 12:47 PM on October 17, 2012


jnnla, do you mean that the office won't *permit* you to have a standing desk without a note, or merely that they won't pay for it? The earlier Ergotron link has standing desks that bolt to existing furniture.
posted by zug at 12:53 PM on October 17, 2012


What about those of us who sit and read books for hours, plus the time at the computer, but rarely watch TV? Is it the sitting or the TV that kills you? I used to work in retail where we had to stand for hours, and that was not so great for the back and legs either, especially for those who did it for many years.

To one easily discouraged like me, this kind of study can also make you say "why even bother to exercise if it makes no difference?" The other thing being, do people who work at back-breaking physical labor jobs, often at low pay, really live longer than folks with desk jobs? Because that is where most of the sitting takes place, and not doing that is not really an option for people who need to support themselves and families
posted by mermayd at 12:55 PM on October 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


It would really help us understand the issue of sitting better, by separating the cause-effect relationship. Does sitting impair health and reduce life span, or does poor health make people sitting more and live shorter?

I am begging you, dear researchers, please tell the cause and effect relationship when you use those moneys to get this research done.
posted by onkyo at 3:08 PM on October 17 [+] [!]

Take away gym class and what happens? Take away recess?

Kids end up more likely to have all sorts of health problems if they don't make up that physical activity somewhere else in their lives. They generally didn't start out with diabetes and high blood pressure.

While there isn't one standard Buddhist monk lifestyle, I feel obligated to point out that many monks must beg for their food which has all sorts of ethical implications regarding status and vegetarianism and meat eating and femininity that I could spend a week yammering about. This mendicant vow means many walk from home to home. Building stronger social networks and checking in on families and did I mention walking?

Strong social networks, meditation and reduced stress are also positively associated with improved health. Watching television erodes social networks, is definitely not like meditation at all, and the very short shots, commercial focus (need! more! stuff!) and implicit and explicit sexism and violence increase stress more than other kinds of sitting. "screen time" is the preferred word now to replace "television" because many people are watching tv or engaging in tv like behaviors with other screens. Some computer use may be different from others.

And here's another link.

23.5 hours
posted by bilabial at 12:59 PM on October 17, 2012


I joined the Army and specifically the Infantry in an attempt to avoid having a desk job, and yet I now find myself sitting at a desk anyway. This job is killing me in ways that I did not expect.
posted by A Bad Catholic at 1:07 PM on October 17, 2012 [9 favorites]


But doctor, it's not TV, it's HBO.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:17 PM on October 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


If sitting in my couch is this dangerous, imagine what would happen if I got up.
posted by phaedon at 1:28 PM on October 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


So long as I live an hour every 60 minutes, I can stay ahead of this.
posted by zippy at 1:30 PM on October 17, 2012


But standing all day gives you varicose veins, and walking wears out your knees, and...ARGGH!

Living leads to death, scientists find.
posted by asnider at 1:31 PM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


so I do sit at a desk all day for work, but does it count if you're sitting bolt upright and twitching like a giant ball of nerves?
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:38 PM on October 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


As I'm too lazy to look this up myself -- because I'm sitting in front of a computer no doubt -- please tell me how the authors are controlling for selection bias. Television viewing isn't a random assignment in other words and may be systematically associated with variables that create open backdoor paths to health outcomes.
posted by scunning at 1:40 PM on October 17, 2012


I'm already short and robust, so I'm in the clear. Whew.
posted by Malice at 1:43 PM on October 17, 2012


Living leads to death, scientists find.

[citation needed]
posted by griphus at 1:45 PM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Humans have busted their balls (and vaginas, respectively) for the privilege of sitting. Let's not take it for granted quite yet.
posted by Malice at 1:46 PM on October 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Did they include Buddhist monks in their data? I mean, sitting is their job and they seem to live quite a long time.

In my lineage, even during intense sessions, you only sit for 20-25 minutes at a stretch, alternating over many hours with brisk regimented walks or, minimally, a few minutes of standing in place. Coincidentally, almost exactly the same practice has been recommended by Reynolds. Also coincidentally, my teacher's teacher is now 105.
posted by feral_goldfish at 1:47 PM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


What about those of us who sit and read books for hours, plus the time at the computer, but rarely watch TV?

Most of the studies are just about sitting down, not watching TV specifically. Even the one in the FPP was trying to look at sitting down really, but they figured it's hard for people to estimate how long they spend sitting down each day, so they used TV watching as an indicator for that.

It looks like it'll be mostly be the same effects whatever you're doing sat down, but there might be some differences based on things like whether people are equally likely to snack while watching TV as reading or as using a computer.

"why even bother to exercise if it makes no difference?"

Exercise makes a difference, but by now it's pretty clear that being active all day - walking about and doing stuff - makes a much bigger difference than say running for half an hour a few times a week. But it's complicated, and different things work for different people. For some people 3 minutes of very intense activity seems to give great benefits, but you have to have the right genetics.

This is worth a watch: The Truth About Exercise (1 hour BBC Horizon documentary).
posted by philipy at 1:48 PM on October 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ha ha, I don't watch TV.

But here I am, sitting in front of the computer.

You people are killing me!
posted by BlueHorse at 2:03 PM on October 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


How do they expect most of us to solve this problem, since we have desk jobs and not a lot of options otherwise that aren't worse than desk jobs? I hate studies like this because it boils down to "you're doomed and there's nothing you can do about it." It's pretty obvious that if I walk around the office once an hour that I am not actually doing work. And how far do I have to walk around to stave off the early death, anyway? Especially when I only get 1 15-minute break for 4 hours and the office area is only so big and if I get water every hour it looks like I have a medical problem?

And to be honest, I don't want a standing desk. I literally can't concentrate as well standing awkwardly and typing on a computer somehow.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:33 PM on October 17, 2012 [7 favorites]


Being aware of the accumulating evidence of sitting being bad, mkay, I installed a set-up at work where my computer screens, keyboard, and a good part of the work surface easily slide up and down from sitting to standing position and back. I never sit for more than 30 minutes or so and I stand usually for about an hour. This has halted progression of my hip and back problems and I hope it will extend my useful life post-warranty.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:12 PM on October 17, 2012


jnnla, do you mean that the office won't *permit* you to have a standing desk without a note, or merely that they won't pay for it?

They will not *permit* it. I didn't even try to get them to pay for it for chrissakes. I figure it's my own health and I can choose the things I need to suit me better anyway. No...it's a permission issue. Apparently putting a small coffee table on my desk and putting my monitors and keyboard on that is a liability and safety issue that CAN NOT BE ALLOWED (note...this is how I worked for years at previous place of employment). The great irony is that a few staff members (I am contract) who get their health insurance through this employer do have doctors notes for standing desks...and the solution is for Operations to come in and create some plywood abomination that sits on top of their desks...*facepalm*. No, *ALL DAY FACEPALM*

Anyway, enough venting...I'm glad to know that it is not only me who sits here day after day with a red-hot ember of hatred for "office culture" burning away inside me. It pays me well, but it kills me well too...
posted by jnnla at 3:19 PM on October 17, 2012


I desperately want a desk treadmill to augment my custom home-made standing desk/command station. (three monitors!). The concept of walking 6-8 miles a day (I currently stand all day) sounds fantastic. I do think it is important to have the desk and your monitors at the right height. The other thing that I found was essential was to wear barefoot style shoes, and I actually stand for much of the day on a doubled over mat, so my heels aren't touching the ground. Weird, but it works.
posted by rockindata at 3:40 PM on October 17, 2012


How about just lying around on the couch?
posted by crazy_yeti at 3:55 PM on October 17, 2012


That is why I slouch. I'm doing it now. Poang for the win.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:01 PM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


How do they expect most of us to solve this problem, since we have desk jobs

Watch this segment of the video I linked earlier. It shows the deskbound presenter looking into exactly this.
posted by philipy at 4:31 PM on October 17, 2012


At my former job, this came up.

A note came from the people who ran facilities that no standing-height desk modifications were available nor were expected to be available in the future, and self-modification of work area could be grounds for termination.

And the area I worked in had cubes that barely came up to groin-height on me, so.

Now I'm unemployed and buying one of these standing desks is too expensive for me.

Hooray, another way that being poor kills!
posted by mephron at 4:32 PM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Couple of people have setup treadmill desks in my office. Although I like the intent, I just couldn't find myself doing it. I've got too much concentrating to do without worrying about falling off the treadmill and banging my head on the damn keyboard.

Nevertheless, at 45, I find myself worrying about my health on a daily basis. I'm not overweight, I don't smoke, I drink moderate amounts of beer and wine, and I try to go for a two hour run once a week. Now this news about sitting. Has anyone done a study on how much your life expectancy is cut by worrying about your life expectancy?
posted by pashdown at 5:27 PM on October 17, 2012


What if I have an ottoman?
posted by Brocktoon at 5:38 PM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


"People who work sitting down get paid more than people who work standing up."
Ogden Nash
posted by tspae at 5:46 PM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Now I'm unemployed and buying one of these standing desks is too expensive for me.

This
or this might help (a couple of wall brackets and a cheap particle board shelf). More ideas here.
posted by dontjumplarry at 5:50 PM on October 17, 2012


As part of my ongoing weight-loss program, I made a commitment to walk 100 miles in October. That's just about 5K a day. I'm at 61 miles for the month so far, and you know what? It's hard. I can only manage it because I don't have a job, I'm a SAHM to one kid who's in school all day and another who is small enough to go into a stroller. Just this morning, I went to walk a new route -- I was going to head to the grocery store that's a couple of miles away to pick up a can of enchilada sauce for dinner -- and I couldn't do it, because there's a quarter-mile stretch along a fairly busy suburban street where there are no sidewalks. Just the lane, 6" of shoulder, and then a ditch, in both directions. I can't walk that, and I sure as hell can't push my kid along that in a stroller.

You'd think for all the sneering about how Americans just need to move more, we could channel some of that energy into actually addressing the institutional and cultural roadblocks that make "moving more" harder than it has to be. Not everyone has an extra hour in their day for recreation; if movement isn't part of people's workday lives, it's not going to happen.
posted by KathrynT at 5:50 PM on October 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


My joke doctor through my joke individual market 'health insurance' refuses to write me a note for a standing desk because I 'don't have diabetes or a condition that requires a standing desk.' I built a desk-top solution anyway at work and promptly got told by HR to take it down due to 'safety concerns.' Now I sit. Back problems have returned. IT band issues have returned. General malaise has returned.

So sorry to hear this. I had a similar experience recently, and decided to see what it was like to sit all day again. Same stuff -- IT band issues, back issues, plus my carpal tunnel/repetitive motion wrist issues all returned within a couple of weeks.

Fortunately for me, my doctor was willing to write the note and now I've got one of those Ergotron stands and I love it. (And, really, it's hard for me to imagine why a doctor would be unwilling to write such a note when a patient is clearly experiencing discomfort and wants some help making a healthy adjustment that will alleviate that discomfort).

If you can afford it, have you thought about paying up to go to a compassionate/helpful doctor and/or purchase the desk stand yourself? It might be worth the extra cost in the long run.
posted by treepour at 5:51 PM on October 17, 2012


@philipy

Awesome video link! Thanks for that!
posted by jnnla at 5:54 PM on October 17, 2012


Standing desks are cheap if you realize all you need to do is mount two shelves on the wall. A shallow shelf for the monitor and a deep shelf for the keyboard. For ergonomics you will want to stand against the wall and draw a line where you stare straight at eye level. Another line at the bend of your elbows. When you mount the monitor shelf the center of the monitor should be where the eye level marks are. You'll have to do the math yourself, I don't know what size or shape your monitor is. As for the keyboard shelf, you should lower it about a quarter or a half of an inch below your elbow so that your fingers fall onto the keyboard. You should not need to angle your forearm upward or too far downward to type.

As for acclimating to a standing desk there are three rules to follow to ensure a successful transition.

First. You must place within walking distance one comfortable seat, it must be stocked only with guilt inducing books. This is where you will rest when your legs start to ache. It is totally cool to take a break and rest your legs for a moment. After all, you are new at this. It is especially cool when you it isn't a break at all, but is instead a change of task. Here is a nice side effect to this first rule. You will actually read some of that guilt inducing tome you've been dreading, and you will probably read it for longer than usual. Yeah, you might even read it maybe a whole ten minutes. Now don't worry you'll be back up and distracted by Metafilter in no time. Your legs will have enough of a rest around the same time you get tired of reading. It is guaranteed. Over time your legs will adapt and the status quo will reassert itself and you can feel guilty again about not finishing those dreary tomes. The punishment for failing to take this rule seriously is bland fatalism.

Second. It must be impossible to type from the comfortable seat. While the comfortable seat is the key to success, the convenient seat is the fast track to failure. If at any point you can type from the comfortable seat then you will fail to acclimate to the standing desk. There has never been an exception to this rule. If there is a seat you can type from, then you will be tempted and you will fall. You will invariably pretend your standing desk is actually a terribly designed normal desk. The punishment for failing to take this rule seriously is back ache, then the heart break of a dream lost.

Third. Move! Standing desks cut through the boundary between computer and life. You can walk and get a coffee, wander around, pace, and return to the computer without any change of physical state. That means dance music, hoola hoops, jogging in place, balancing boards, hacky sack, depends on the workspace, but the point is to MOVE. You cannot stand still and you won't. Your legs will demand movement. Listen to them. Instead of wandering the internet, you will find that you are literally wandering your workspace. The punishment for failing to take this last rule seriously is varicose veins and your knee failure.
posted by TwelveTwo at 5:57 PM on October 17, 2012 [9 favorites]


If my body survives the booze, cigarettes, and drugs, I'm sure that I'll be begging for a quick death. See you in hell, TV people.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 7:06 PM on October 17, 2012


I do an hour of exercise every day in a seated position, on a stationary bike, watching TV on my computer, mostly during the two hours or so I have per day after I get home from my second job and before I go to bed.

Imagine my chagrin to learn that I'm hastening my death by 21 minutes every damn time I do it.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:47 PM on October 17, 2012


Which is to say that blanket statements like the one in the post that started this thread are bollocks.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:48 PM on October 17, 2012


Now I'm unemployed and buying one of these standing desks is too expensive for me.

There have been other cheap solutions mentioned above, but at the totally cheapest you can stack (free!) cardboard boxes, milk crates, and/or scraps of wood into an acceptable configuration to prop your monitor and keyboard at ergonomic standing heights above your current desk. There are advantages to the fancy standing desks, but there's nothing that can be juryrigged for free if you don't mind it looking a bit trashy.

Personally I like to sit for some things, stand for others; what I hate is immobility. I'm not surprised that sitting is bad for you, but I know a few guys who stand on an assembly line and that's not so great for them, either -- shoulders are shot, feet are giving out, you name it. We evolved to walk around, crouch, sit, lay down, run -- without that varied movement, there's no surprise that our health suffers.
posted by Forktine at 8:54 PM on October 17, 2012


I have a nearly-worthless background hunch about the motives of health researchers; it forms part of an ad hominem against such studies.

I kinda think that health studies tend to push certain aesthetic preferences on us. Soda and television, for example, are gauche...and often the targets of health puritans. (And red wine? Good! Not beer, though. Nor white...well, maybe a nice, oaky Chardonnay...y'know, if it compliments the main course properly...) I've heard stories about how blue light from t.v. and computer screens prevents me from sleeping...and I wonder whether I'm being coerced into reading books instead of doing low-class things like watching the teevee.

Sitting per se doesn't seem to fit the pattern...so I can't fit that into my conspiracy theory...yet...but to the extent that tv gets singled out as particularly bad...meh, not buying it.

At least this sitting-is-bad hypothesis at least isn't as loony and patently false as many of the conclusions of health "science" in recent years...remember when exercise didn't count at all unless you got more than 20 minutes straight? So much of this crap can be dismissed with confidence after 10 seconds of deliberation...but not, it seems, the sitting thing.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 11:29 PM on October 17, 2012


you know, they don't ever say that watching tv is bad in and of itself. what the article says is that hours spent watching tv are a fairly accurate indicator of non-activity because most people watch tv sitting down. i'm sure watching Matlock while walking on a treadmill would be totally okay.

i wish they'd be a little more clear however and just say lack of physical activity. i mean, is sitting itself the bad thing? is it bad because the blood and organs are constricted by the unnatural bend of the body? what about laying down? is that different?

really, wtf are we supposed to do? i stand and move around 8 or 10 hours a day at work. should i not lay down and read for a few hours before bed? do i have to walk around til i'm sleepy? or move constantly, like a shark?
posted by Conrad-Casserole at 12:36 AM on October 18, 2012


Has there been any research into the health effects of standing for a long time? I assume staying in the same position, no matter what position, for a long time isn't really healthy.
posted by ymgve at 1:02 AM on October 18, 2012


Forktine: There have been other cheap solutions mentioned above, but at the totally cheapest you can stack (free!) cardboard boxes, milk crates, and/or scraps of wood into an acceptable configuration to prop your monitor and keyboard at ergonomic standing heights above your current desk.

Indeed. I work at home, and I used to prop my laptop up on a small, overturned laundry basket that I placed on top of the island in our kitchen. That was a fine and cheap temporary solution that I relied on for a couple of years.

Earlier this month, I turned 40, and my girlfriend, her mom and her grandma bought me a a sitting/standing desk like this for my birthday. Awesome desk. The one pictured at the link is much smaller than mine (mine's 180cm by 90cm, slightly smaller than a North American twin bed. It has two strong motors and adjusts from sitting to standing height in a matter of seconds. If you're in Europe and are looking for a desk like this, I can highly recommend this one - especially at the price of 399E (400E off of the standard price).

I have no connection to this company, at all, other than having this one product from them, but it's a high quality product at a SUPER price, when compared to similar competing alternatives.
posted by syzygy at 1:25 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


When I stepped away from twenty years as a high security document management drone to work first as a building contractor, then as the head engineer for a giant community art project at a museum for the insane, I found that I didn't miss having a desk, or a "workstation." I built myself a standing-height workbench out of an old signboard from the museum, which gave me the only desk in the world with a hand-painted Alex Grey radiant spooky magic lunatic energy eyeball on it, but also trained me to be comfortable with discomfort, or what seemed like discomfort. I bought myself a pair of astonishingly expensive work boots that turned out to be astonishingly comfortable and really made my calves pop when I was clomping around the Eagle after work in camo cargoes, traded off the muzzy flatness of office casual for overalls, and started to regard my desk time in my office under the museum as a punishment.

Writing grants and doing the inventory and ordering and other computer stuff gave me what I started to call "chair poisoning." My brain would sort of go into a slow, irritable state of fizzly fading carbonation like a swiftly flattening store-brand canned diet cola, I would start to feel heavy and sore, and that frisky energy that comes from being always slightly off-kilter would just boil away into steam and leave me.

We crave comfort, or what we feel as comfort, and western culture is entirely focused around an increasing sense of luxurious entitlement. We hate our jobs, so we slog home in traffic and slouch in front of the TV or the computer, filling the parts of the brain built for yearning with the sizzling flicker of distraction. I am as guilty as anyone—especially since my usage of Netflix has turned into what I've been calling the "thru watch," in the modern American version of the classic thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail. I find a series I've not seen, and watch it straight through over a few weeks of single-subject fixation. I fall asleep with Leslie Knope, night after night, and wake with the Roku logo bouncing listlessly around the television.

It's so easy to just surrender to the vegetable calm that comes from sitting in a chair until you start to melt into it, your eyes jittering in the glare of LED-lit screens, then plod to the car, merge into that chair, then plod to the kitchen, to the sofa, to the desk where your social life unfolds in the glare of LED-lit screens, to the bed, to Leslie Knope, and my my, I think she's a lovely simulated lady, but is this all there is?

Then, you see it. Chair poisioning.

I am living under a death sentence. I have, if statistics rule my run, thirty-two point nine years left to live, and I have four thousand pages of unpublished work sitting in files. I have not stood on a stage in six years. I have never made as much money as I make now, and never been as close to being financially secure. Chair poisoning may be a localized allergy, something that strikes only some of us, but even when I'm up and about, the leaden, weighty mass of inertia trails me.

They say that it's the time in front of a television, but a computer is a television. The act of typing isn't really the action of typing, especially as keyboards get flatter and flatter, graduating from the gymnastics of the manual typewriter to the elegant two-dimensionality of those little aluminum keyboards that are as thin as an axe blade and infinitely less physical. The world shrinks to a plane, and for recreation, we don oversized plastic glasses and simulate bulk through twin channels of offset phase.

When I was a hyperactive kid, I could read until my eyes bled. I'd find a whorl of leaves in the woods, dig out my well-worn Douglas Adams paperbacks and read at lighting pace, losing myself in the text. As a grown-up, I start to read, and start to slump, and start to snore. Something's wrong here.

Will I die from chair poisoning? Maybe. Maybe the chair skews my statistics.

Maybe not.

Does something else die?

I'm pretty sure it does, and it makes me think about what to do next.
posted by sonascope at 3:43 AM on October 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


Staring at a TV is a less energetic activity than staring at a blank wall, AFAIK. Watching TV has also been linked to a bunch of negative effects on the mind.
posted by asok at 4:54 AM on October 18, 2012


I actually sit on an exercise ball at my desk at work and I feel like it's a little less static than a chair. I bounce a bit and roll while I work, and I kind of wonder if that's a bit better than just sitting in a chair.
posted by jefeweiss at 5:41 AM on October 18, 2012


In all these things "sitting" is shorthand for "being virtually motionless".

Standing gets you maybe a 10% improvement over sitting, but walking at a modest pace maybe 100%, walking at a brisk pace 200%. Like it or not the human body was never designed for spending hours a day hardly moving. If you can walk and talk rather than sit and talk, or think at a whiteboard rather than a desk, it's to the good.

On the other hand, we're all going to die sooner or later. And we are going to live rather longer than previous generations anyway. I tend to think: Do what you can, and don't worry about what you can't.
posted by philipy at 6:43 AM on October 18, 2012


Ironically if I was as thin and fit as I was in High School I wouldn't have much trouble having a standing desk at home. As it is these days my knees, hips and feet hurt if I stand for more than fifteen minutes at a time. An at-home standing desk looks absolutely excruciating. If I could concentrate and move I'd prefer like, a cycle desk, or something.

But let's be honest. People who use the computer for several hours a day aren't going to stick with a standing desk for long (and if you do, kudos).

I think it's more realistic to maybe just encourage getting out and doing some activity, the old fashioned way of exercising.
posted by Malice at 11:25 AM on October 18, 2012


"I find it interesting that all of these studies are pitched as "stop watching television." Instead of the more accurate (but presumably less realistic) "quit your desk job."

I can think of five or six possible reasons why this is the case. None of them are flattering to the reporters, the scientists, or our culture as a whole."


While I share your cynicism about the quality of these jounalists, this bears no relationship to the actual paper that the article failed to meaningfuly reference or presumably the scientists who wrote it.
posted by Blasdelb at 11:54 AM on October 18, 2012


But let's be honest. People who use the computer for several hours a day aren't going to stick with a standing desk for long (and if you do, kudos)

I'm a programmer, and over the last few years, I've worked with plenty of people who have. I don't, but I see it as possible.
posted by lumpenprole at 3:21 PM on October 18, 2012


There are actually a number of studies that have linked sedentary behavior to higher mortality. One that I found particularly telling was done in 1953 comparing bus drivers to bus conductors. Since they came from similar backgrounds, had similar socioeconomic status and lifestyles (except for the sitting vs. standing), it was a pretty solid study. The results showed much higher mortality for the drivers. The same investigator JN Morris did other studies comparing government postal workers to desk workers which supported his original findings. A description of that research can be found here.
posted by Mental Wimp at 5:40 PM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Can we please make "Chair Poisoning" a thing? Great description.
posted by Noon Under the Trees at 12:00 PM on October 20, 2012


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