Chronic Sitting Kills!

By Marilynn Preston

December 4, 2015 5 min read

Sit happens. Everyday, millions of Americans spend 8 to 14 or more hours, on their behinds, sitting. I'm talking to you. Think about your day: driving, commuting, working at a desk. You sit when you eat, watch TV, answer emails, read a book, play a video game, knit booties. The truth is we modern Americans sit so much it passes for totally normal behavior. We don't even think about it, do we?

Well, start thinking! Pull up your life-shortening chair and listen to this: There are now over 10,000 studies showing that too much sitting is a terribly destructive thing to do to your health and well-being.

Your body thrives on movement, and when you make it sit for hours at a time, you create serious damage at a cellular level. Research shows prolonged sitting significantly raises your risk of developing heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, insomnia, arthritis, osteoporosis and so much more, it's hard to believe chairs are still legal. If 70 is the new 50, sitting is the new smoking.

And don't think your daily workouts will protect you. Nope. Chronic sitting is an independent risk factor, meaning all the risk correlations hold true no matter how much you exercise. It sounds too bad to be true, but the research is clear.

And that's why I want to spend the rest of this column, not on the sitting-kills research (which is astonishing) but on what can you do to sit less, micro move more and educate yourself about the benefits of standing:

USE A STANDING DESK. If sitting kills, standing saves. That's why stand up desks are quickly rising in popularity, in offices, in homes, and especially at my home, where I'm happily standing now, in front of my new Varidesk, a clever, affordable design in the $350 range that I've been showing off to friends like a new puppy.

Other stand-ups I researched looked too corporate and would have meant replacing my beloved old wooden desk. The Varidesk sits on top and has an easy, spring-assisted lift that takes me from sitting to standing in a couple of seconds. I love it ... and I'm pretty sure it loves me.

It comes with an app for stand-up alerts, but I'm just using my own body awareness -- gradually standing longer and longer until my legs tire, then sitting for 30 minutes or so before I rise again.

I found a ton of anecdotal evidence online about stand-up desks -- some with treadmills -- curing back pain, insomnia, fatigue and more, and I'm not surprised. But too much standing can also create health problems (varicose veins, for instance) so stay tuned into your body and rest in your chair when you need to.

MOVE MORE. One sure cure for too much sitting is getting up every hour and moving for 10 minutes or so. Is that so hard? Apparently, yes. So do what you have to do -- an app, a phone alert, a kitchen timer -- to remind yourself to stand, to stretch, to do neck rolls, air squats, and other energizing movements. There's also walking to the water cooler, jumping rope, practicing your tango moves. is an excellent source for videos demonstrating the kind of intermittent exercises you should be doing, standing up and moving at least once every hour. "I was able to reduce my normal 12 to 14 hours of sitting to under one hour," Dr. Joe Mercola reports. "And I noticed one amazing thing --the back pain I've struggled with for many years, simply disappeared."

READ THIS BOOK. If you want to understand the science behind sitting no, standing yes, moving more, read Dr. James Levine's recent book, "Get Up! Why Your Chair Is Killing You and What You Can Do About It." He's the Mayo Clinic endocrinologist and pioneering researcher who documented the perils of too much sitting in 2000, way before it was accepted as true. And now he's a leading voice for change in the work place, at home, and very importantly, in schools, where prolonged sitting hurts kids and stifles creativity.

I hope you're convinced. Stand more; sit less! Now it's time for me to lower my desk and rest my case.


"Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death." -- Dr. James Levine

Marilynn Preston’s weekly column, “Energy Express,” can be found at

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