Standing Up to the Harms of Sitting

We knew being a couch potato was unhealthy, but a slew of recent studies have concluded that sitting for hours at a time increases our mortality, even if we exercise. It’s so detrimental that Dr. James Levine, an endocrinologist with the Mayo Clinic, has declared that chairs are lethal and sitting is the new smoking.


Taking this to heart, our staff is engaged in a wellness challenge, designed by our community programs team, Brandin and Alica, to integrate physical activity and other healthy actions into our work day.

Daily activity breaks get us out of our swivel chairs to activate stabilizer muscles, bring blood flow to joints, and stretch stiff muscles. We earn points every time we participate—and extra points if we lead one of the sessions—but what keeps us coming back is how much better we feel after even a short burst of movement.



“When sitting for prolonged periods of time, any movement is good movement, and (is) also associated with better fitness,” said Dr. Jacquelyn Kulinski, lead author of a study conducted by cardiologists at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “So if you are stuck at your desk for a while, shift positions frequently, get up and stretch in the middle of a thought, pace while on a phone call, or even fidget,” she suggests.

To take the Staff Wellness Challenge a step further—into our non-work lives—we have weekly bonus challenges. For the first week, Brandin and Alica compelled us to include at least 30 minutes of daily physical activity. We lifted weights at the gym, swam laps, ran on the treadmill, shoveled snow, and held plank position to meet the challenge. And the winner was. . . Senior Accountant Mark Williams, who showed his competitive spirit, exercising six out of seven days, and achieving the highest score for the week.


Redefine the expression “standing meeting.” At one of our recent staff meetings, every chair in the room was empty. More noticeable was the heightened energy level. That's consistent with a 2011 study of desk workers who were given a device that enabled them to alternate between sitting and standing. After seven weeks, and 87 percent reported feeling energized, 71 percent felt more focused.  All that by standing instead of sitting.

How do you incorporate physical activity into your work day?