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A month without sitting
June 9, 2014 9:27 PM   Subscribe

"If you sit down more than 11 hours a day, one study suggests, you’re 40 percent more likely to die in the next three years than I am. I’m standing up. I’ve been standing up all day. I’ll be standing up all month, in fact, without a break. I expect at the end of that month I’ll be sore but triumphant, glowing with smug enlightenment..."
posted by John Cohen (73 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 


I'm glad he acknowledges that, while this is just a one-off experiment for him, most people who stand all day (or who move all day) have no real choice in the matter because their jobs are what make them stand. My in-laws are largely nurses and military people, and they all have problems with varicose veins and/or their feet and/or their lower-body joints. Standing is hard work.
posted by gingerest at 9:57 PM on June 9 [44 favorites]


yea, this seems like a damned if you do damned if you don't think. no matter how fancy of shoes you put on that are made for it, standing all day still sucks. I've had those jobs, and i certainly didn't feel healthier when i was doing them.

i also seriously want a cite on this:

Reading the research, I’ve become convinced that sitting around all day is the worst thing I do to my body—that, like smoking, plopping down on our collective ass makes us profoundly likelier to die earlier. The effects have nothing to do with regular exercise; indeed, it seems that being sedentary when you’re not exercising eliminates many of its benefits. Sitting all day lowers your good cholesterol and raises your risk of diabetes. Sitting down, you burn a single measly calorie each minute.

Uh what? so if i walk or bike to and from work every day, and otherwise generally spend time outside moving around but spend hours sitting on my ass every night/for a couple hours at the office when i'm not running around doing crap then they basically cancel each other out?

That's a total [citation needed].
posted by emptythought at 10:00 PM on June 9 [12 favorites]


Well, good. You live in this world.

I'll be dead comfortable.
posted by eriko at 10:01 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]


Having spent my high school and college years working foodservice, I know from experience that standing for a long time is basically zero amount of fun.

That said, I'm still thinking of building a standing desk because sitting all day makes me restless. The trick really does seem to be just having some sort of moderation.
posted by DoctorFedora at 10:08 PM on June 9


I thought this was going to be ridiculous. But I found his reflections on the social norms of sitting to be interesting. That he missed a lot of family time, because those things were normally done sitting.
posted by kjs4 at 10:17 PM on June 9


i also seriously want a cite on this:

This has actually been well known and researched for a while. I'm on my phone ,but here is a blog post with some of the detail.
posted by smoke at 10:20 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]


Bad knees preclude standing much, not to mention a lot of employment; for many. Guess we are missing out.
posted by buzzman at 10:21 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]


More broadly, it's important to acknowledge research showing how little movement you need to ameliorate some of the negative effects of prolonged movement. It's not like you need to go for a run every hour, one or two minute breaks is enough.
posted by smoke at 10:22 PM on June 9 [7 favorites]


I had a standing desk through my two previous jobs; I am now relegated to a sitting desk.

I love it. I love it all day long.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 10:29 PM on June 9 [5 favorites]


I'm not joking--what if you were suspended in a harness, but stood with only 50 percent of your weight bearing on your joints? Would that allow you the benefits of standing without varicose veins, or would you suffer from bone mineral loss or some of the problems associated with weightlessness?
posted by mecran01 at 10:32 PM on June 9 [3 favorites]


I love having a sit-stand desk, so I can be lazy, or not, as I choose.

The down side is that if you are in an office environment with low cubicle walls, some people might find your standing to be distracting...
posted by suelac at 10:33 PM on June 9


My martial arts training includes the occasional hour long standing meditation. Feet apart to shoulder width, hands cupped below navel, straight posture, eyes straight ahead. Absolutely no motion. Not even a slight shifting of the foot, shifting weight, looking around or opening the mouth or any thing like that. It's astonishingly hard to do and becomes a living hell around the 30 minute mark. Standing ain't easy.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 10:38 PM on June 9 [7 favorites]


Desk job for 11 years and some knee trouble (overdue for my age); but I STILL feel the effects of just one year of a stand-in-one-spot-all-day job from twenty years ago. That stuff wrecks you permanently from the ground up. Don't stand if you can walk.
posted by rahnefan at 10:45 PM on June 9 [5 favorites]


In my will, I have requested that my coffin be buried vertically instead of the usual horizontal arrangement. For health reasons.
posted by twoleftfeet at 10:46 PM on June 9 [19 favorites]


I'm not joking--what if you were suspended in a harness, but stood with only 50 percent of your weight bearing on your joints?

I'd go with a weight supporting robot exoskeleton, but my clumsiness would render those around me 40% more likely to die.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:47 PM on June 9 [13 favorites]


How often do most guys notice or think about their actual heels?
I wonder if the reason he mentioned "guys" is that he doesn't understand which part of the foot hurts when you wear high heels. (For me, it's the ball of my foot, and not so much my heels at all.)
posted by evidenceofabsence at 10:54 PM on June 9 [8 favorites]


Our ancestors presumably spent a lot of time walking, and I doubt they had a reason to stand in one place
for long periods of time, or languish in a comfy chair... and if they had a sedentary chore to do my guess is they would squat.
...I think we need to walk and squat more.
posted by quazichimp at 11:05 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


So I have to wonder if my habit of bouncing my legs up and down when I sit undoes any of the apparent health downsides to sitting.

It probably doesn't.
posted by DoctorFedora at 11:20 PM on June 9 [3 favorites]


Standing is hard work.

It's very hard work, and very unnatural. As a teacher, I spend roughly half my time standing in class, and the other half of the day sitting at the computer. It's not good to just stand in one place, though. I walk at the front of class and stroll around the room as much as possible.
posted by zardoz at 11:22 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


mecran01: "I'm not joking--what if you were suspended in a harness, but stood with only 50 percent of your weight bearing on your joints? Would that allow you the benefits of standing without varicose veins, or would you suffer from bone mineral loss or some of the problems associated with weightlessness?"

Ehhh, probably not. The varicose veins - veins, unlike arteries, don't have their own built-in musculature to move blood along. They depend on, amongst other mechanisms, the movement of skeletal muscle to push blood back towards the heart. In the legs, this movement is against gravity when you stand. There are little valves in the veins of the legs that prevent blood from flowing backwards in response to gravity - but after too many years of sustained gravitational pressure, those valves start to lose their capacity to remain closed. The leg veins get even more backlogged and swollen, fluid escapes into the tissues, the legs swell, and it's just a bad scene all around.
I don't think that wearing a harness would help much because gravity would still be countering blood flow, you'd be less able to move around to promote venous return, and the harness straps could further impair bloodflow by putting pressure on the veins and musculature. Moreover, you'd introduce a whole new set of problems because the straps would have the potential for pressure ulcers.
posted by gingerest at 11:23 PM on June 9 [4 favorites]


I'm sitting like ALL THE TIME. I think I'm in trouble.
posted by Justinian at 11:26 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


The original famous study of this was the London Bus Driver study in 1949, comparing the bus driver, who sits all day, with the ticket taker, who stands all day.

The link mentions other possible factors in the health differences, but it was the first study that brought the sit/stand health effect to people's attention.
posted by eye of newt at 11:37 PM on June 9 [5 favorites]


In China, everybody does morning exercises. It doesn't matter if you work at a hair salon or if you're a construction worker or if you're a student; everybody does a little exercise in the morning, to get the day going.

We don't have that tradition, but we should. Office workers should have to assemble outside their office building in the morning and train the muscles they need for their job. If your job involves sitting then the gluteus maximus needs to be exercised. "Right cheek clench!" Everybody clenches. "Left cheek clench! Both cheeks clench! Bend! Straighten! Wiggle!"

A program like this for every corporation could make our country great again, or at least overcome our current low scores in world ranking for butt flabbiness.
posted by twoleftfeet at 11:50 PM on June 9 [12 favorites]


overcome our current low scores in world ranking for butt flabbiness
I beg to differ. Butt flabbiness is a sport at which we excel!
posted by evidenceofabsence at 11:57 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]


In my will, I have requested that my coffin be buried vertically instead of the usual horizontal arrangement. For health reasons.

Yes! Id like to be buried standing up, facing towards the closest gym.
posted by cacofonie at 11:57 PM on June 9 [5 favorites]


DoctorFedora: "The trick really does seem to be just having some sort of moderation."

Whoda thunk it?
posted by dendrochronologizer at 12:03 AM on June 10 [2 favorites]


Does history teach us nothing? Who won at Custer's Last Stand? It was Sitting Bull.
posted by twoleftfeet at 12:12 AM on June 10 [41 favorites]


Our ancestors presumably spent a lot of time walking, and I doubt they had a reason to stand in one place for long periods of time, or languish in a comfy chair... and if they had a sedentary chore to do my guess is they would squat.

The snag is that they probably died in perfect cardiovascular and digestive health around the age of forty.
posted by Segundus at 12:56 AM on June 10 [18 favorites]


"Right cheek clench!" Everybody clenches. "Left cheek clench! Both cheeks clench! Bend! Straighten! Wiggle!"
Excellent idea. Tickets could be sold to the laughing bystanders, and the profits could be donated to varicose vein research.
posted by Cranberry at 12:58 AM on June 10 [2 favorites]


If God didn't want me to spend all day sitting down, He wouldn't have given me such a cushiony butt. Your move, evolution.
posted by fight or flight at 2:22 AM on June 10 [3 favorites]


Dan Kois is hilarious. I especially love the pictures that illustrate the article.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:04 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


I find the middle road by standing and moving around at work and coming home at night and sitting down for long periods playing video games, reading, or binging on TV shows.
posted by snwod at 4:36 AM on June 10


It was Sitting Bull.

Is your argument about the Sitting or the Bull?
posted by biffa at 4:41 AM on June 10


My uncle had a motto, words to live by:

Never stand when you can sit.
Never sit when you can lie down.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 4:45 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


Nonsense. Sitting down saved my life. If I had been standing at that school cricket match in 1974 that ball would have caved my skull in.
posted by Decani at 4:46 AM on June 10 [2 favorites]


Is the problem with sitting in general, or is it with sitting on a stationary chair instead of on, for example, one of those big rubber balls that some loopy people sit on at work? Because I might be able to sit on a beach ball all day for all I know, and maybe even learn to run down the corridor on the ball like I'm in a cartoon circus, but I definitely wouldn't be able to stand that much.
posted by pracowity at 4:49 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


It's much more healthy to lie down and have someone sit on your face.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:00 AM on June 10 [4 favorites]




Long-term complications of standing

Sitting: Health Effects

So basically the answer to either of these is just to keep moving. Fidget. Get up and walk around if sitting, sit for a while if standing. Stretch. Do stuff.
posted by Foosnark at 5:20 AM on June 10 [5 favorites]


I had no idea that my uncle cribbed that from Churchill!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 5:21 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


It's much more healthy to lie down and have someone sit on your face.

Do I have to tell you that I love you?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 5:27 AM on June 10


from article: “Reading the research, I’ve become convinced that sitting around all day is the worst thing I do to my body—that, like smoking, plopping down on our collective ass makes us profoundly likelier to die earlier. The effects have nothing to do with regular exercise; indeed, it seems that being sedentary when you’re not exercising eliminates many of its benefits. Sitting all day lowers your good cholesterol and raises your risk of diabetes. Sitting down, you burn a single measly calorie each minute.”

emptythought: “Uh what? so if i walk or bike to and from work every day, and otherwise generally spend time outside moving around but spend hours sitting on my ass every night/for a couple hours at the office when i'm not running around doing crap then they basically cancel each other out? ¶ That's a total [citation needed].”

No; it's phrased a little weird, but you're reading it wrong, I think. When it says "being sedentary when you're not exercising," it means being sedentary and also not exercising at all. You say you are exercising. Therefore you do not fit into the category of people who are sedentary and don't exercise at all.

Many people are sedentary and do not exercise at all. They are at risk, as many studies have shown. I could look some up, but I trust that pretty much any study ever would demonstrate that being sedentary and not exercising would be terrible for you.
posted by koeselitz at 5:45 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


The best advice on sitting vs. standing at work comes from Cornell's Human Factors and Ergonomics Research Group:

Sit to do computer work. Sit using a height-adjustable, downward titling keyboard tray for the best work posture, then every 20 minutes stand for 2 minutes AND MOVE. The absolute time isn’t critical but about every 20-30 minutes take a posture break and move for a couple of minutes. Simply standing is insufficient. Movement is important to get blood circulation through the muscles. And movement is FREE! Research shows that you don’t need to do vigorous exercise (e.g. jumping jacks) to get the benefits, just walking around is sufficient. So build in a pattern of creating greater movement variety in the workplace (e.g. walk to a printer, water fountain, stand for a meeting, take the stairs, walk around the floor, park a bit further away from the building each day).

In truth, you don't need a standing desk. You need an egg timer.
posted by Cash4Lead at 5:45 AM on June 10 [17 favorites]


(Okay, I was reading that wrong myself. Sorry, emptythought. And it looks like it's true; smoke has the link. I should not comment minutes after I've woken up.)
posted by koeselitz at 5:48 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


The standing desk fad makes me mental.

Oh, i know it has its value. My wife uses one. She's very happy with it and it's been great for her particular back problems.

But for me, standing for any length of time (or spending more than about 40 minutes walking) leads to pretty significant hip, knee and back pain. This is not something that would get better from more standing. This also does not mean that I am not fit. It means that my body is not helped enough by standing to make it worth the ways that my body is hurt by standing.
posted by lodurr at 5:49 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


My twice-operated-on-for-injuries-sustained-while-upright-back tells me that standing all day hurts like bloody hell.

And, of course, his "standing diary" predictably begins with his mentioning the great hipster touchstone...the standing desk. GAH!

I think, though, the real point, once stripped of the annoying evangelism, is that sitting for long, extended periods of time is bad. Duh. However, the logical take-away from that is not sitting=bad/standing=good. It's that you should strive to move about as often as possible to keep your body as limber as possible. Take breaks from sitting. Take breaks from standing. Be human.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:51 AM on June 10 [3 favorites]


I wonder if the reason he mentioned "guys" is that he doesn't understand which part of the foot hurts when you wear high heels. (For me, it's the ball of my foot, and not so much my heels at all.)

Really? Hmmm.....i've always thought it would be the instep. Live and learn.
posted by lodurr at 5:54 AM on June 10


It's much more healthy to lie down and have someone sit on your face.

That would strongly depend on who is doing the sitting.

For work, I like having a stand/sit desk; having the option is nicer than being stuck in one position. But for actual health, it would be better to not be in the office at all and have some kind of utopian job like "stroll around in parks and look at birds," combining moderate physical activity with mental engagement. Arguing about standing vs sitting at a desk all day is like comparing donuts cooked in lard versus crisco.

I wonder how postal workers' joints hold up over time -- the ones I see walk a lot of miles every day, but every step on unforgiving concrete. The field biologists I know, who do things like walk miles and miles of streams for half the year, seem to mostly hit a definite "nope, can't do that anymore" point when accumulated knee and shoulder issues catch up with them.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:01 AM on June 10 [2 favorites]


Really? Hmmm.....i've always thought it would be the instep.

It can also be the instep, depending on the height of the heel, but the majority of your weight is coming down on the ball of your foot not only with each step but when you are standing. It's right on the bunion zone, which is very unpleasant.
posted by elizardbits at 6:18 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


I have the largest, most luxurious office probably of the rest of my entire career. I've got a standing desk and a sitting desk that I can switch between at my leisure. I've got a ton of room i can pace around in. It took me a while to get used to the standing desk, but I really do recommend that people give it a shot, if they can.
posted by rebent at 6:23 AM on June 10


My physical therapist told me last month that "sitting is the new smoking."
posted by shothotbot at 6:48 AM on June 10


This is why I walk to lunch everyday, unless it's raining.
posted by oceanjesse at 6:49 AM on June 10


But for actual health, it would be better to not be in the office at all and have some kind of utopian job like "stroll around in parks and look at birds."

Man, I really want that job. Why aren't there more jobs like that? When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I need with my good looks??
posted by aka burlap at 6:53 AM on June 10 [3 favorites]


How many of you at sitting desks are standing to read this thread? Just checking.
posted by maudlin at 6:54 AM on June 10


I'm slouched on the couch. It's all right.
posted by davros42 at 6:57 AM on June 10 [6 favorites]


I'm lying flat on my back, reading off the ceiling.
posted by Pudhoho at 7:20 AM on June 10


I'm sittin on them thangs.
posted by cashman at 7:34 AM on June 10


I remember reading some research about the damaging effects of jobs with excessive physical labor as well. Since the needs of people in office jobs are more likely to garner media attention, it would do to remember we also should advocate more rest periods for people doing excessive amounts of standing and physical activity.
posted by xarnop at 7:46 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


I'll be dead comfortable.

In the words of Kinky Friedman, "Find what you love and let it kill you."
posted by octobersurprise at 7:55 AM on June 10 [6 favorites]


I decided to build an adjustable standing desk for my home office. What I discovered is that an adjustable standing desk, absent willpower and coupled with general laziness, is just a desk.
posted by echocollate at 7:56 AM on June 10 [3 favorites]


My desk is on a tilt-o-whirl.

YOLO!!!!
posted by stormpooper at 8:38 AM on June 10 [2 favorites]


I can never sit for very long. I sit a lot, but I feel compelled to get up and move around every half hour, at the most. I don't understand people who can sit on a couch for hours.

I've thought about a standing desk, but I don't think that standing still would be much different. It's moving around that I find beneficial.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:31 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


"If you sit down more than 11 hours a day . . . you’re 40 percent more likely to die in the next three years than I am. . . . I’ll be standing up all month, in fact, without a break. I expect at the end of that month I’ll be sore but triumphant, glowing with smug enlightenment . . . "

Does history teach us nothing? Who won at Custer's Last Stand? It was Sitting Bull.

Is your argument about the Sitting or the Bull?



I think I've already read as much 'sitting bull' as I can stand for one day.
 
posted by Herodios at 9:37 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


I'm sittin on them thangs.

I'm not a doctor, but I thought in funk anatomy the "thangs" were located in the anterior of the body, while the posterior would be referred to as the "booty" or more crudely "ass", though I suppose alternately the term "stuffs" could be apropriate.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:46 AM on June 10


I could have done without knowing how many minutes this guy spent sitting on the toilet each day.
posted by yohko at 9:56 AM on June 10


Don't forget the wonders of working retail where the very concept that a person might want to rest their body and feet and lean against something is treated as though it would cause all profits to fly out of the store like blowing an airlock in a vacuum.
posted by Ferreous at 10:02 AM on June 10 [15 favorites]


Sitting all day is bad. Standing all day is also bad, plus more painful about it. Scientists need to figure out that happy medium already. End of story.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:19 AM on June 10


yea, this seems like a damned if you do damned if you don't think. no matter how fancy of shoes you put on that are made for it, standing all day still sucks. I've had those jobs, and i certainly didn't feel healthier when i was doing them.

Three months ago I started a job where I stand for 10-11 hours a day (I do walk around and constantly move, but we're talking an area of 50 ft at most).

The first month and a half it was torture. Everything ached when I got off work. It hurt to walk, hurt when I slept. I even thought I might have to quit. Now after another month and a half it doesn't bother me at all. I guess my body has adjusted. I'm not sore, I don't get tired, I feel strong the entire shift. I don't feel much different at the end than I did in the beginning. Sometimes better.

No idea if I'll love longer, and maybe I'm not healthier at all. But I definitely feel healthier and stronger than when I was sitting for entire days except for a 30 min walk/run.
posted by justgary at 11:41 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


I have a balance board under my desk and I wobble around on it probably an hour or so out of the day. I am quite clumsy by nature so it's a good thing to do.

I consider myself very fortunate to have the option. At my walmart (and surely at many other places), there is a square marked off on the floor with blue masking tape in the center of the self-checkout area, and that's where the employee stands. Like a cow or a chicken in a factory farm. No cage but no autonomy.
posted by headnsouth at 1:03 PM on June 10


After sitting for 8 years, I'm not dead yet
posted by stormpooper at 2:14 PM on June 10




No idea if I'll love longer,

A lovely promise, but one beyond the powers of a mere job.
posted by John Cohen at 3:08 PM on June 10


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