"Sitting is Killing You" infographic

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112 Responses to “"Sitting is Killing You" infographic”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I think the problem here isn’t whether one stands or sits in front of a desk all day – I think the problem is the desk.

    An active lifestyle includes standing, sitting, walking, swimming, and all other sorts of movements. Let’s pick an easy-to-imagine example: cowboys. They’re on their feet a lot, they do manual labor, and they work hard. But they also sit and rest often during the day; they also ride around on horses for much of the time; they also sit down in front of a workbench now and again to fix or create something with their hands.

    I think the key is variation. People who are on their feet all day without getting proper chances to rest their legs end up suffering a variety of problems, as several folks in this thread point out. Even if you don’t sit down, taking some time out to just walk around and stretch one’s muscles can be an enmormous relief.

    Likewise, people who spend all day sitting around can develop back pain, poor posture, and become lethargic and inactive. But if you get up and go for walks, take breaks and otherwise switch things up, you feel more active and stay more limber.

    Everything in moderation. It’s an old saying most people forget. Too much of anything will kill you. But people can and do live to be over 100 taking a couple shots of whiskey and a few cirgarette every night for several decades while sit for several hours after dinner watching television.

    ~D. Walker

  2. MrScience says:

    You have to click the [via] link in the article.

  3. Ipo says:

    Sick people sit more. There clearly is causation in this correlation.

    Lecterns, or if you will, standing desks are awesome.
    To me it’s not so much the standing, but the pacing that really helps me to focus and/or form thought.
    Get a barstool for sitting intervals, that does even more for your feet and back than a rubber mat. Try it.

    Most of histories great thinkers used standing desks.
    They were the norm.
    Everybody else used them too.

    I believe that sitting down for reading and writing only became commonplace with the advent of schools in their current form, not 200 years ago.

    Yes, I agree, sitting will kill you in much the same way tofu will kill you or worse. It could grow you moobs! =]

  4. MacBookHeir says:

    Mark, do you happen to know the pro/con statistics regarding kneeling for prolonged periods? I know quite a few priests and am starting to get a bit worried : )

  5. TheOceaneer says:

    Wanted to interrupt the snark to say: I’ve been working at a standing desk for about a month, and have noticed the following benefits:
    1.) Weight loss: My eating habits have gotten worse, but my weight continues to drop. That’s a nice effect.
    2.) Increased productivity: I’ve noticed that I do not get a post-lunch food coma, which used to be a daily occurrence. I’d say I’ve reclaimed about an hour per day of spacing out/almost sleeping.
    3.) Perceived Insanity: People think I’m crazy. I try to cultivate this image, as people are afraid to bug you with annoying requests if they think you are crazy.

    I’ve been tweaking my behavior as I go — I find if I don’t sit for about 10 minutes/hour, my back is sore by the end of the day. I also try to fidget almost constantly, which alleviates a lot of back and foot issues. You can do an astounding amount of moving about while typing.

    I imagine it is not for all people. The only thing I can recommend is to try it for a couple of weeks, and go back to a chair if you hate it. My setup is a sheet of plywood held up by dead PCs, so the cost of trying was pretty low.

  6. MrScience says:

    And, now that I’ve read the infographic… that image of leaning back at a 135 angle seriously hurts my neck just looking at it.

  7. EliZ says:

    I don’t dispute that lack of physical activity is a thoroughly modern plague, but let’s not forget the cardinal rule of statistics: Correlation does not equal causality!

    People near death are likely to be less physically active, right? Even if they were just working as construction workers, if they got, for example, shot in the leg they’d be sitting when the infection finished them off. Or if they had food poisoning, a mobility diminishing accident, etc.

    I don’t doubt that prolonged sitting is bad for you – and I credit it with my need for back surgery some years ago – but I think a bit more research is needed before we say that it’ll make you more likely to die. It’s entirely possible that it is dying that causes sitting and not vice versa.

    This just in: opening umbrellas causes it to rain.

  8. Anonymous says:

    “Sitting increases risk of death up to 40%”

    So, your risk of death is 40% if you sit and even less if you don’t! Awesome!

  9. nate_freewheel says:

    I saw a naked marine standing on an anti-fatigue mat. Enlisted men, beware of these contraptions.

  10. HD says:

    You’re ignoring the fact that most of us are bored, depressed, in pain, and wish we were dead.

  11. brillow says:

    Seems like a good call for BB to do a nice long comprehensive post on the science behind this latest meme.

  12. boingboingdave says:

    anyone ever figure out which brand/type of mat that was? Or have recommendations? Would help while dj’ing.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I just adapted my desk to a standing configuration this morning. Boxes of old annual reports and some scrap plywood did the trick nicely.

  14. fergus1948 says:

    Jebus!
    Why don’t you stop with this Californian ‘You-Can-Be-Immortal’ crap, right now? I’m glad you like standing but don’t keep putting your fear-of-death neuroses on the rest of us.
    Goddamnit, I’m going out to sit in a burger joint, drink beer and sit down.
    Somebody bury me in the morning.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      Why don’t you stop with this Californian ‘You-Can-Be-Immortal’ crap, right now? I’m glad you like standing but don’t keep putting your fear-of-death neuroses on the rest of us.

      You know, all that unfocussed anger will kill you. You might want to try some bio-feedback or a sensory deprivation tank.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Standing desk!

    BoingBoing, did I ever thank you for your article on the treadmill desk?

    Because of that article, I bought a used treadmill.
    Then, because I had the treadmill, I started walking while using my computer.
    Because walking felt good, I walked even more.
    In search of better and better endorphin hits, I started running for a minute or two at a time.
    Because I loved how I felt after running, I started following a couch-to-5k program.
    I finished my first 5k race in under 27 minutes just last month.
    Because I’d like to be a better runner, I started taking Pilates classes.
    I developed a gym habit, just in time to take advantage of a deeply-discounted rate at a nice place near me.
    Now I’m 25 pounds lighter than I was before, and finally had to replace most of my dumpy, post-baby-fat clothes with (new-to-me) clothes that I really love.
    And I feel AWESOME!

    Sincere thanks to you, Boingboing, for making a big difference in one person’s life.

  16. Zoman says:

    “Sitting expends almost no energy.” Yeah, that’s why I do it.

    When you die, your brain ceases to function. You are no longer aware of anything. Whether you die at 40 or 80, it actually makes no difference to individual involved. Think on that while you are eating your tofu and carrot sticks.

    • lknope says:

      What about the individual’s family? Do their brains cease to function when an individual dies? Or would they rather the individual live to 80 than 40? How about individuals who make a difference in other people’s lives? It might be nice if that individual were around another 40 years. Think on that while you eat your twinkies and cheetos.

      • Charles H. says:

        What about the individual’s family? Do their brains cease to function when an individual dies?

        Since I have a small doomsday device wired into me that goes off as soon as brain activity stops: yes.

      • Zoman says:

        Is your are argument that we should live as long as possible, so that our death doesn’t “upset” anybody? Do you live vicariously through the lives of others?

        Go listen to “If 6 Was 9″ by Jimi Hendrix brother. ;)

    • Anonymous says:

      Well I’m about to turn 40, so it makes a difference to me.

  17. Anonymous says:

    That’s a false conclusion. Old people sit longer because they often have problems walking. And of course you are more likely to die within 15 years when you are 80 than when you are 18. It has not so much to do what standing does to your health and more what your health does to standing.

  18. millie fink says:

    How about lying down instead of sitting? (I do a lot of reading lying down, instead of sitting.)

    • Charles H. says:

      Also expends no energy. This is why I’ve banished beds from my house as well.

      I eat standing up. I sleep standing up. I don’t allow my raw milk providing cow to lie down either.

      The two of us are going to live forever.

  19. Purplecat says:

    But what we really want to know is:

    Does it kill or cure cancer?

  20. Anonymous says:

    I wonder what the real difference in obesity over the last thirty years is since the insurance companies made the AMA first adopt the flawed BMI system as its indicator of obesity, then revised the numbers downwards in 2000.

    I also wonder, if 1 in 3 people are overweight, are 1 in 3 people ‘normal’ weight and 1 in 3 people underweight? But that’s just me and my basic knowledge of statistics trying to undercut the BIG SCARY FLASHY NEON SCAREFONTS.

  21. DrOrbitalDeathRay says:

    Infographic brought to you by the Citizen’s Council of Gel Mat Manufacturers.

  22. ikegently says:

    Actually, it seems like there is a lot of research backing up the sitting is bad for you argument. try this for a pretty good overview:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/17/magazine/mag-17sitting-t.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=sitting%20&st=cse

    or don’t. it seems like many of you are happy sitting and will only get mad if you hear anything negative about it.

    • archmagetrexasaurus says:

      First, NYT != science.

      Second, that’s the same (and only) research which makes the claim used in the part of the infographic included in the BB post.

      Third, MDs are not scientists. I wish they’d stop pretending. Sure, they’ve got a unique position from which to gather medical data, which can help to inform scientific research, but this sort of claim really isn’t ready for the public at this point. This should be clear from the disparity between the subtlety of the result and the alarmist nature of its media coverage.

      • ikegently says:

        First, you are right: nyt != science. but scientists in nyt article do scientific research. thus, nyt can give a nice overview of the scientific research about a particular topic.

        James Levine, researcher at Mayo Clinic (yes, he’s an MD. He still publishes in peer reviewed science journals)

        Shelly McCrady-Spitzer (same — not sure if she is an MD, but she is in those pesky peer reviewed journals. also from Mayo.)

        Michael Jensen (also Mayo)

        Marc Hamilton (Pennington Biomedical Research Center — OK, this doesn’t seem like the best scientific source….)

        Alpa Patel (epidemiologist with the American Cancer Society)

        or there’s the journal Circulation — peer reviewed research discussed in this article.

        So, come on. Don’t say that something isn’t science because it involves MDs and gets written about in the New York Times. Don’t say MDs are not scientists. If they are publishing in peer reviewed science journals, they are are doing science. Don’t say this is the only study, because this is actually an overview of many studies.

        Now, if you know of any good studies that support the claim that this is all junk and that sitting is totally good for you, please share the citations.

        • archmagetrexasaurus says:

          “Don’t say MDs are not scientists. If they are publishing in peer reviewed science journals, they are are doing science.”

          Fair enough. I get annoyed at the prevalence of shoddy medical research (and even worse reporting of it by the general media), but I’ll certainly agree that being an MD doesn’t prevent one from doing science. Without a doubt, some fine empirical data collection and analysis gets done in the medical community. I just wish it didn’t always turn into some abuse of “X causes cancer” or “Y is fatal” (though perhaps fault doesn’t the researcher as often as it does with some public health official or journalist).

  23. tylerkaraszewski says:

    I don’t think I know a single person who sits for less than three hours a day. Here are some typical sitting activities, even leaving out “working at a desk”:

    Eating
    Driving
    Watching TV
    Reading a book
    Playing games (both video and board)
    Going to the bathroom
    Reading BoingBoing (or anything else on the internet)
    etc.

    Who doesn’t spend three hours a day doing some combination of those things and working at a desk?

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      The problem isn’t really sitting three hours per day; it’s sitting three hours at a stretch without moving.

      • Jack says:

        The problem is modern tech life demands sitting still and the ergonomics of laptops/notebooks are non-conducive to good work habits, health habits or eating habits.

        I deal with these “demands” by not bowing down to them. I don’t have a laptop yet do deep tech work at home. If I have to work in an office, there is always a desktop or a printout since I am there for meetings.

        When I get tired of coding I take a long walk. I’ve personally mapped out snack and lunch places within a decent walking distance from the home office. And make it a point to go out of my way for snacks and such.

        That said it all stinks. It almost makes me understand the Google office mindset of allowing folks to create their own workspaces. If I were in such a situation, I would have a cot to take naps during the day or at least lie down while reading notes and manuals.

        That said, I would trade my tech-work for real manual labor if there was any that paid as well and had a future. By far the days I spent in college working in the stockroom of the college bookstore schlepping books and shipping boxes of books was much more physically rewarding than deskwork.

  24. Anonymous says:

    The key to standing all day when working is good shoes, not these mats. Ask any nurse or chef, or rather look at their feet. Dansko clogs.

  25. alowishus says:

    Well, I participated in this survey. And I likely threw off the results. When I’m sitting, I’m usually doing massive amounts of cocaine and guzzling Chinese energy drinks.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Stephen Hawking…

  27. jacobtal says:

    thats a risk im willing to take

  28. floraldeoderant says:

    My nostrils are now chocolate milk flavored, no lie. Best flaming ever (though mostly tongue-in-cheek).

    “Hey you! Trying to be healthy! FCK YOU. FCK YOU AND YOUR HEALTHINESS. GAH!”

  29. Anonymous says:

    I don’t want to sign in so I’m commenting anonymously. But my unsubstantiated claims for the day for the causes is:

    1) Sitting for that long dulls the senses and makes a person more prone to getting into an accident.

    2) Sitting or even being stationary for that long causes crushing depression and makes a person more likely to commit suicide.

    3) Jobs that require sitting for that long suck and causes crushing depression that makes a person more likely to commit suicide.

  30. Anonymous says:

    I’m not sure I want to live to 80 years old, considering the projected cost of living increase over the next 40 years, it will likely cost $50 just to hose out my mobile Rascal-toilet (or whatever mode of transport we’ll be using as senior citizens by then). I’ll be fine dying by 70 or so. Thanks for the extra incentive to keep up my sedentary lifestyle!

  31. WeightedCompanionCube says:

    This is such junk science. Math to the rescue!

    According to the rest of that infographic:

    relative calories burned per hour * 8 hours in a workday:

    sitting 8 hours = 8
    standing = 5 * 8 = 40
    walking = 150 * 8 = 1200

    so if i stand all day at work, I burn 40 vs 8. Fair Enough. But what if I WANT to sit, and take a walk to make up the difference.

    8 + 150x = 40
    x = .213 hours of walking.

    That’s 12.8 minutes. Take a 15 minute walk at lunch and you’re burning more calories than standing all day.

  32. Anonymous says:

    Forty percent? That’s great news. I always thought it was more like seventy five.

  33. deredder says:

    Buddhist monks often sit in meditation for up to 8 hours a day. Famously known for their short life-spans and ailing health conditions.

  34. Anonymous says:

    I demand to see the cross-tabs on recliners with built in massage function!

    Next up: “Living is Killing you!”

  35. Lumpmoose says:

    “Sitting 6+ hours per day makes you 40% likelier to die within 15 years than someone who sites less than 3. Even if you exercise.”

    “Even if you exercise” is a profound statement for such a throwaway line. They seriously expect me to believe that sitting 6+ hours automatically makes me 40% likelier to die in 15 years and that fact makes all the other diet and exercise in my life wholly irrelevant? Massive calorie burning after work simply cannot undo the deadly 6 hours of sitting? Someone is twisting statistics.

  36. Mark Frauenfelder says:

    “Think on that while you are eating your tofu and carrot sticks.”

    I am much more likely to eat three eggs fried in bacon grease. Tofu will kill you.

    • lionelbrits says:

      {{citation needed}}

      • Charles H. says:

        To be serious for a moment (though I can’t tell if Mark is or not):

        Tofu is one of those foods that you either believe is going to save you or kill you — and there are studies supporting both positions. (Though I constantly hear about how those studies were conducted/funded by somebody with a vested interest in the results, and therefore should not be trusted.)

        I have friends who eats tons of the stuff because it’s going to help them live longer, and I have friends who avoid eating it if at possible because doing so will give them cancer of the Alzheimer’s.

        I’ll post back here in a few decades and let you know which group was right. (OK, so maybe “a moment” was a bit too long to remain serious.)

  37. Anonymous says:

    For the life of me I couldn’t understand why people would choose to stand instead of sitting while working, and then over time I realized that most people didn’t feel serious pain in their back when they stand for more than a few minutes like I always do. Thank you protruding spine, you give me a genuine excuse to let my ass keep growing.

  38. Anonymous says:

    I hang in a sling suspended by wires from the ceiling. TAKE THAT, DEATH!

  39. RuthlessRuben says:

    Reading health magazines can seriously impact your health, methinks.

    Call me a nihilist, but, do I really WANT to live to be 100 if it requires me to live like the people from the future in “Demolition Man”?

    Well, I don’t, but many do and that’s very good for them. I worked retail for a few years in college, hence had something like a standing workplace, and I’m very glad I have a desk job that permits me to both couch my behind on a chair and to get up and go for a short walk whenever I feel like it. Sitting all day is bad for you, but so is standing all day. Movement, that’s where it’s at.

    So yeah, I’m risking the 40%.

  40. kgb says:

    Average hr/day spent exercising is closer to 0.31, source. At.31 hr/day, the average person spends 19 minutes exercising. At .7 hr/day, the average person spends 42 minutes exercising. 23 minutes of difference if scaled to a year is almost 140 hours, which at a conservative estimate of the hourly rate of calories burnt doing exercise of 150 calories per hour ends up being nearly 6lbs of fat difference.

  41. Eric Ragle says:

    I made myself a standing desk after Mark’s last post. I found a 20 dollar tv stand at Walmart that I took the tablesaw to. The problem is, there isn’t enough room on it for 2 monitors. So no standing for me yet, but I plan on going to fetch another tv stand soon.

  42. Flying_Monkey says:

    That infographic is not entirely true. Standing is not ‘low intensity physical activity’ in the same way that walking is. And standing is not going to suddenly stop you dying of hideous diseases. What you need is at least an hour or high-intensity heart-rate raising exercise every day and eat sensibly, walk or cycle rather than driving, and then you’ll be pretty much fine, whether you spend most of your work time sitting or standing. Different story if you’re slumped in front of you TV for 16 hours a day and do nothing else.

  43. saurabh says:

    This post is an excellent example of a key blindness of modern Western medicine: employ some statistics to reduce an incredibly complex field to a few variables, misunderstand them, then dictate behavior with religious fervor on that basis. I’d prefer a tool that was a little less empirical and actually suggested some understanding of human health.

  44. jere7my says:

    Do hours spent sitting on my bicycle seat count?

  45. Anonymous says:

    And how many of those constantly standing people after a few years have chronic back and knee pain and varicose veins? The few jobs I’ve had that required lots of standing always left me feeling crippled.

  46. slgalt says:

    The anti-chair lobby has clearly paid for this study. And the Chamber of Commerce for gel insoles and mats are getting tax cuts while blaming the lazy for sitting.

  47. TSE says:

    I can’t stand in the same place for hours…. it kills my feet.

    Standing on a gel mat all day is probably bad for your ankles or something like that.

    Our modern society seems to be founded upon an incredibly irrational fear of death. All health news is tied in to life expectancy.

    You need to live a long life so you can pay as much income tax as possible.

  48. sporkles says:

    Yikes! But if I do this? No more wasted lunch hours!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=TOrfPlH5nCk

  49. LogrusZed says:

    Little too “Rumsfeld” for me, thanks.

  50. Shart Tsung says:

    This is stupid. I sit 8 hours a day at my desk and then lay down for 8 hours, it’s alot of fun, especially when you add eating, reading, Netflix, and XBOX360 into the mix. I have not seen any signs of death. In fact, I am very healthy and could beat you up with one arm.

    Sleeping > laying down > sitting > walking > running > swimming > jumping >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> standing in place all day like a rube.

    Go buy a real desk and a desk chair, freak.

  51. Tdawwg says:

    I’m saddened to see you all in the pocket of Big Lectern.

  52. Susan Oliver says:

    I love these sitting/standing posts, Mark. Keep ‘em coming! I clicked thru to the full infographic (which the naysayers should do; some of the negative comments read as if they haven’t examined the full article) and saw that there are a lot of studies cited. Am putting those in my stack of “things to read on the treadmill”!

  53. dustofdeath says:

    I registered so i could comment lol (been at boingboing for long tho as anon :D).

    Sitting may be the “natural pose” but our lifestyles are not natural. People who favor standing obviously have never worked standing up (oh and ps – im not overweight or sick or anything) – full workday and ur back will hurt – even if it was a job that requires few physical interaction.
    We are meant for moving/walking not staying still. Your legs will hold the whole weight of your body and to be honest, our bone structure is generally weaker and feet aint as good as they were million years ago. Thats where health problems come from.
    Its not sitting thats the problem, its the wrong pose and wrong chair.
    id say the percentage is 40% but 40% of what? whats teh average death percent for a average human? its low but depends on the location and wealth of the person. But it can go as low as 0.8% (so 40% increase to this would be 0.35?).

    This is pure brainwash, they leave out important data and scare people with big numbers. ITs like saying that “i won 1/10th of a million of dollars – sounds big.. but in fact its just 100k).. Psychology…

    And like someone did say… “Living kills you” – thats true – each breath you take contains large amounts of toxic oxygen (free radicals/singlet oxygen is what poisons you from inside out, destroying dna etc) – but if you stop breathing you die faster.
    When you walk, your joints will wear off slowly. When your heart beats its muscle tires slowly, your liver is accumulating all the toxic chemicals and fails slowly, your lungs store all the tar, dust and crap you breathe in and so on….
    What is a miniscule percent of increase of the risk of death compared to the pollution and chemicals you eat or the massive amounts of alcohol and smoke?

  54. Anonymous says:

    People who commit suicide at a young age are 100% less likely to die of a heart attack! Suicide is good for your heart!

  55. Anonymous says:

    You convinced me. I am adopting the standing desk :)

  56. dancentury says:

    I’ve been sitting for at least 6 hours a day ever since kindergarten, with some breaks when I worked in an acid factory, had my own lawn-cuttin’ business, and when I managed a record store. Come to think of it, I was in my best shape when I was standing! Since I’ve been working on a computer for a living I’ve been about 70 pounds heavier than when I worked in landscaping.

    Nice knowing you. I’ve got seconds to live.

  57. Kleinzeit says:

    This’ll be why prolific novelists always die young. Oh… wait a minute…

  58. fergus1948 says:

    It must feel pretty awesome, Mark, knowing that when me, my children and my great grandchildren are all long since dead, you’ll still be alive, standing at your desk saying ‘I told you so.’.

  59. Shart Tsung says:

    What if you’re sitting on a swiss ball?

  60. yosemite says:

    Ah, the frivolous concerns of wealthy first-worlders. You’ve gotten a bad back from sitting? You can also get a bad back from the following:

    1) standing
    2) lifting
    3) carrying stuff
    4) moving too much
    5) not moving enough
    6) repetitive movements
    7) moving suddenly
    8) moving in certain ways

    Get a job in construction, or waiting tables, or carrying water, or pounding nails, and you’ll have fantasies of sitting.

    Balance. Moderation. It really is that beautifully banal. (And it still will kill you.)

  61. bkad says:

    How do I see the actual infographic? I clicked the link but see only comments.

  62. sworm says:

    A man sat in a cave and watched a cat walk past the entrance.

    A man sat in a cave and watched a dog walk past the entrance.

    Aha, said the man! Cats cause dogs!

  63. lesleym says:

    Well darn, what are we supposed to do at night while we are laying down for hours sleeping? Learn how to sleep standing perhaps…?

    • lesleym says:

      Correction: lying down not laying down. Also,I know it says sitting not lying down but both involve the same functions practically. Anyway, if it is alright to lie down, can I just find a way to lie down while I work. hehe

  64. Lester says:

    I’ve had a standing desk since January 2010 when I went from a bike-commuting job to a train commute. I haven’t exactly lost weight, but I have kept the energy levels up and more-or-less kept the gain to a minimum despite the abundant awesome food carts nearby, a lack of time to hit the gym, and my wife’s discovery of crockpot cooking.

    My big fear is that I’ll go back to sitting when I get my new office computer, since the screen may be too small for my wee standing desk.

  65. leftinflint says:

    In an earlier post you wrote you were experimenting with the height of the desk. How has that gone? Are there general guidelines for desk height in relation to arm/hand position for typing as well as monitor height?

    I want to built a desk for my office, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to build a lot of prototypes and experiment too much. I’d like to come close on the first try and do minor adjustments.

    Thanks.

  66. Anonymous says:

    Sitting will mutilate your body after it kills you.

  67. Chesterfield says:

    Wow – why all the bitching? From what I know about Mark, this infographic was appealing for both the info and the graphic. Combine this with his standing-desk positive report and it’s a natural for him to post.

    And stop with all the smart-guy-on-the-internet posturing. It shouldn’t be your mission in life to point out correlation vs causation problems. Geez. Give us a little credit.

    Thanks for posting this Mark and I look forward to your next standing desk update. Let the haters hate.

  68. Anonymous says:

    Lord have mercy. This post seems to have touched a nerve. Whether the stats are misleading or cooked can be debated. However, one thing that I’ve found, after spending my last 2-3 hours of each work day standing, is that I’m not nearly as tired at 5:00 as I used to be. That’s enough for me. As for pain related to standing for long periods, I agree with the poster who pointed out that being stationary is probably more to blame. I would also ad that most of us don’t know how to stand properly.

  69. Chevan says:

    Yes, that’s very true, correlation is not causation.

    That’s why almost none of the information in the infographics asserts causality. Everything is expressed as an increase or decrease in risk. That has specific meaning, and it doesn’t assert causality. That’s why they’re called risk factors; not because you WILL get a disease if you have them, but because because most of the people with the disease have them.

    Making the jump from associative data to assumptions of causality is an important part of what epidemiologists are trained to do. This includes aspects of biological plausibility, analogy to known phenomena, and strengths of observed associations. While we don’t have access to raw data, it does look like these infographics have the biological plausibility part covered. Look at the “How Sitting Wrecks Your Body” page. If we know that sitting down has demonstrable negative effects on your body’s functions, then it’s not as great a leap to say that there may be elements of causality between sitting down and the increased association with disease.

    Epidemiology and statistics use slightly different rule sets. You have to understand the purpose of collecting this data, the mindset with which it’s treated, and the ways in which it’s implemented. Saying “correlation is not causation” really isn’t all that helpful, because it’s something everyone already knows. The point of this research is to advance knowledge to a point where we can reasonably conclude that the correlation we’re seeing really IS causation.

    • saurabh says:

      Ergh. Okay, those are risk factors. Implying that avoiding the risk factors is somehow desirable means that you believe there is causation at work. Otherwise why avoid them?

      • Chevan says:

        The point is that even though correlation does not guarantee or directly indicate causality, correlation can still strongly imply causality. It’s the difference between a treasure map and someone poking you in the ribs while saying “wink wink nudge nudge.”

        This data set can’t say “Sitting down is definitely killing you, 100% without a doubt.” The “correlation is not causation” adage is entirely correct there; you can’t in good faith assert causality with this data. What it’s doing is handing you a crapload of risk factors and some biological mechanisms and say “Here’s what we think is going on.”

        The point is not to demonstrate causality so that you know what you HAVE to do. The point is to approach causality so that you have a good idea of what you SHOULD do. The point is allowing someone to make an informed decision despite not having full information.

        To give a historical example, scientists were able to identify a probable causative link between smoking and lung cancer back in the 50s, way before we had definitive biological proof. If we had waited until we had good biological demonstrations of the link, it would have put off any kind of restrictions or taxes for another decade or two, which would have had bad consequences from a population, public health point of view.

        • jere7my says:

          The infographic says “SITTING MAKES US FAT.” That’s some flat-out assertion of causation right there. And none of the data on that panel supports that assertion, except circumstantially.

          For instance, they say that obesity doubled between 1980 and 2000, even though exercise rates stayed the same. They also say that “sitting time” increased 8%. They don’t mention, for instance, changes in caloric intake during that period, or any of the zillion other non-sitting-related factors for obesity. Note that “standing”, according to their graph, only expends 10% more energy than sitting, which expends “almost no” energy. So standing burns 110% of something very close to zero. Whee. Why is this panel here again?

          That, compared with the alarmist shadow-demon imagery, is why I’m looking at this askance, and why I don’t plan to throw my desk chair out the window.

          Great graphic design, though.

          • Chevan says:

            Okay, yeah, they used some sensationalistic stuff in the title and the page headings, and there’s problems with their presentation of the data. The whole series could be better. But I think there’s still useful information here.

            And on that sitting time data, I think it would be safe to assume that the people who performed that research controlled for caloric intake. That’s one of the most obvious factors that would need to be accounted for in any useful study design on obesity.

          • WizarDru says:

            Well, here’s the thing. When you use sensationalist titles, misleading and undocumented data and make broad suggestive claims, expect to be questioned and doubted. I’m all for getting up and exercising. I work at a computer all day. I’ve lost 30 pounds in the last five months…but it wasn’t from standing. It was from the classic ‘eat less, exercise more’ approach.

            The article has lots of oooohhhh-sccaaarrry infographics, but all of it’s sources are…MSNBC? Businessweek? The NY Times? A couple of reports they yanked from the CDC and labor department without context? Where’s the medical studies to cite? Where’s the actual accumulated data focusing on the problem, rather than some guy scouring some blogs and charts and drawing erroneous conclusions using some dodgy statistical trickery?

  70. SeamusAndrewMurphy says:

    The reaction to the 40% claim reminds me of a good friend’s reaction about 15 years ago to the claims made about oat bran and healthy hearts. When he read about it, he went out and bought two forty pound bags of oat bran and ate it three meals a day for about a week. After a week of this absolutely essential health practice, he was back to smoking like a chimney and eating hot dogs for lunch. When he finally had his massive heart attack, I bought him a one pound box of oat bran and gave it to him in the hospital.

    I believe he sat a lot too.

    I have no idea where he got the forty pound bags of oat bran from. I should ask him that. I bet he still has about 76 pounds of it.

  71. eiaboca says:

    Is your standing desk the kind that moves up and down easily? Because standing all day is bad for you too.

    I had a job where I stood for 10-12 hours, and my knees and ankles *ached,* even when I’d been there for two years. I am in fairly good shape, I go to the gym three-four times a week, stretch carefully, etc.

    I had a coworker who was stick thin but in her late 40s who developed varicose veins past the cosmetic stage, to the point where they hurt her at all times.

    I don’t have studies to back it up at the moment, but I personally believe that the culprit is staying in any one position for too long, like a lot of people(including me) do at a computer.

    You need to vary your routine, stand, sit, walk, stretch.

    Not to mention the fact that the infographic is kind of ridiculous. It cites a lot of sources, but gives no reference to what 40% or 11% actually means.

    Compared to what? Because a 40% jump from .0000001% is not exactly terrifying.

  72. Antinous / Moderator says:

    It’s interesting that people become outraged by this claim and respond by announcing that it doesn’t matter that they sit eight hours per day because they go to the gym three times a week and bicycle on the weekend, and that counterbalances it. Except that it doesn’t.

    Taking a pill or eating a salad doesn’t fix an incessant junk food habit. Concentrated exercise in a short period of time is not a cure for being a blob 23 hours per day. So you’re skinny – fine. You can still develop blood clots and other vascular problems. Loss of flexibility and chronic positioning will eventually get you on medications with side effects. There’s no miracle cure for a sedentary lifestyle. You just have to break up your sitting periods with periods of activity.

  73. Anonymous says:

    what about the followup articles that basically said if you fidget and move around enough when sitting, it’s the same as standing?

  74. hungryjoe says:

    They make a compelling case that 8 hours of total physical inactivity are harmful for you. The case they do NOT make is that standing in place for 8 hours a day substantially improves you chances of survival.

    In any case, I suspect the sitting is only one aspect of the problem. They’re not looking at the whole office worker lifestyle, which includes diet soft drinks, coffee drinks loaded with sugar and milk, eating out every day for lunch, snacking during the day, and lack of exercise outside the work environment because the Bachelor or whatever is on.

    I’m guilty of some of the above, and I’m gradually gaining weight. Hopefully I’ll either adopt a more active lifestyle, or die before I need a Hoveround.

  75. Anonymous says:

    If you want to sit while standing you can get a Stitz Stool. It comes in two different flavours: A round seat and an oblong seat. http://www.flickr.com/photos/lamidesign/3642964314/in/photostream/
    The best of both worlds.

  76. blatantdisregard says:

    I don’t know about the benefits to life longevity but I switched my desk to a standing configuration after Mark’s post last month. I’ve had two surgeries to repair a ruptured disk in my spine and deal with some type of lower back/leg pain several times a week. I can say that it has definitely helped me. I feel like my core is stronger since I’m constantly standing and switching my stance. It also makes it easier to move from my work bench and back. I wear dress shoes with a slight heel so my feet hurt though. I think I’ll start going barefoot while I’m in the office to minimize this. The gel mat definitely helps.

  77. Jackasimov says:

    Well, my anecdotal evidence based on the scientific method of living for a long and tiring 46 years has taught me that not sitting is a motherfucker. All of my jobs since the age of 16 have involved standing for extended periods of time (fast food, retail, art production at standing desks, more retail) and my legs are well and truly fucked. I have varicose veins like an old lady (or worse, like an old man).

    So stand all you want, but you won’t be wearing shorts anymore because your legs end up looking like 16th century treasure maps scrawled by an epileptic with narcolepsy (or something). It sucks to look at and doesn’t feel so hot either. On the up side, I probably won’t die for a while due to, you know, the standing.

  78. h4wk says:

    Hey wait…I’ve been working a desk job for 17 years (and exercising) which means I should have died two years ago!! Yikes…I could die at any moment!!

    • Charles H. says:

      You’re livin’ on borrowed time, man. (Better hope whomever you’re borrowing it from doesn’t find out and ask for it back.)

  79. David Llopis says:

    Speaking of citations, I’m having trouble finding information about this in peer-reviewed medical journals. Coming from a long line of sitters living into their 80s & 90s, either I’m genetically optimized to sit rather than stand, or this is bad science.

    • ikegently says:

      Health-chair reform: your chair: comfortable but deadly. Levine JA. Diabetes. 2010 Nov;59(11):2715-6

      Sedentariness at work: how much do we really sit? McCrady SK, Levine JA. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2009 Nov;17(11):2103-5. Epub 2009 Apr 23.

      Leisure time spent sitting in relation to total mortality in a prospective cohort of US adults. Patel AV, Bernstein L, Deka A, Feigelson HS, Campbell PT, Gapstur SM, Colditz GA, Thun MJ. Am J Epidemiol. 2010 Aug 15;172(4):419-29. Epub 2010 Jul 22.

      a few to get started.

      • Anonymous says:

        Occupational Sitting and Health Risks : A Systematic Review /
        Jannique G.Z. van Uffelen et al. (Am J Prev Med 2010;39(4):379 –388): “Context: Emerging evidence suggests that sedentary behavior (i.e., time spent sitting) may be
        negatively associated with health. The aim of this study was to systematically review the evidence on associations between occupational sitting and health risks.” -> “Conclusions: Limited evidence was found to support a positive relationship between occupational sitting and health risks. The heterogeneity of study designs, measures, and fındings makes it diffıcult
        to draw defınitive conclusions at this time.”

        Health risks associated with prolonged standing / John McCulloch (Work 19 (2002) 201–205): “Conclusion: Prolonged standing has been associated with increased risks of chronic venous insufficiency, musculoskeletal pain, preterm births, and spontaneous abortions [4,6–8,10–16]. Due to the health risks associated with prolonged standing, employers and workers alike
        are encouraged to take preventive measures, especially
        in the case of pregnant women. Modifying job tasks to
        incorporate more posture changes is encouraged. Tasks
        can be divided among workers so no one worker is performing
        the same task for to long. Pregnant women are encouraged to take on more sedentary job responsibilities or decrease work hours in order to minimize the risk of birth complications. Simple solutions, like the use of support hose, can greatly reduce the risk of chronic venous insufficiency and associated complications
        [1–3,9,17]. Future studies may want to examine the effectiveness of products and work modifications in decreasing the health risks and complications of prolonged standing.”

        And since the NYT was mentioned, how about The Times? The Dangers of Sitting at Work — and Standing By Bryan Walsh (http://healthland.time.com/2011/04/13/the-dangers-of-sitting-at-work%E2%80%94and-standing/)

        And there also is the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/ergonomics/standing/standing_basic.html): “Standing is a natural human posture and by itself poses no particular health hazard. However, working in a standing position on a regular basis can cause sore feet, swelling of the legs, varicose veins, general muscular fatigue, low back pain, stiffness in the neck and shoulders, and other health problems. These are common complaints among sales people, machine operators, assembly-line workers and others whose jobs require prolonged standing.”
        It gives some recommendations and what you should be aware of when workind standing (like the seemingly for some people suprising note: Your feet can only be as comfortable as the footwear permits.).

  80. gths says:

    Everything you like tries to kill you.

  81. Anonymous says:

    you guys make my feet and knees hurts just talking about this. Have fun standing. I’ll be on my bike.

  82. ln2961 says:

    Just say there’s a 1% chance of me dying within 15 years if I don’t sit. That’s only a 1.4% chance of dying if I do sit.

    Anyway, I don’t buy that it’s sitting which damages health, unless people are dying of back problems. I think a much more likely explanation of a statistic like this would be that the people who sit the most are office workers, and it’s actually work-related stress which takes a toll on their health. Or if it’s factory workers who are sitting down for long hours, it’s probably frustration and tedium which causes stress which kills them. I would say in both cases the isolating people who sit for long hours simply isolates people in jobs which cause stress-related ill health.

    I mean, did the study include people who sit and read all day? Or people who sit and fish all day? I doubt it.

  83. hbnick says:

    As an e-commerce worker, sitting on my ass for years became hellish and frankly fattening. I decided to build a treadmill desk and I’ve been clocking 8-10 miles a day since October 2010. Here’s a video of my fat ass on day five. I’m several inches slimmer all around these days and I must say it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. I have found 2 MPH and +2 degrees to be most comfortable. Check it out…
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=moHasCqOAvU

  84. tpe123 says:

    I’ve gone through the footnotes in the infographics. Several of them are crap. But there is some decent info in the rest. Which, unfortunately, isn’t all that conclusive or convincing. Some hedging, more questions than answers, the usual caveats.

    If you like experimenting with life hacks, like boingboing folks do, by all means stand! If it starts to bother you, sit, kneel, whatever. Don’t take this stuff for gospel, though.

  85. HaltingPoint says:

    This is just MORE infographic spam from medicalbillingandcoding.org. This is a network of sites that pump out demographics to get backlinks from reputable sites like boingboing and others, and then slap a bunch of educational lead-gen offers that pay them on a per-lead basis.

    Stop furthering this type of SEO spam.

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