Dr. James Levine, director of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative and inventor of the treadmill desk, who has been studying the adverse effects of increasingly sedentary lifestyles for years, concluded, “Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death.” In fact, Levine is credited with coining the phrase, “sitting is the new smoking.” The reason this is so dangerous is because when you sit for long periods, sluggish blood flow can set the stage for a blood clot to form.
A recent study of more than 100,000 men and women also supported this conclusion. It found those who sat for more than six hours a day were more likely to have died from cardiovascular disease over the course of the 14-year study than those who sat for less than three hours a day. This held true even among those who exercised regularly!
"Overall, current evidence suggests that both standing and treadmill desks may be effective in improving overall health considering both physiological and mental health components," stated an article from Preventive Magazine.
Digging deeper, there are a myriad of reasons why standing for a bit of time instead of sitting is better for you:
- A standing workstation could increase HDL cholesterol: the "good" cholesterol
- 18 participants in one study who used a standing desk for three months lost some weight
- Seven studies of standing desks, totaling 220 participants, found they had very little impact on typical work tasks (typing). In one telling study, employees using a sit-stand workstation for four hours a day during on work week had no significant difference number of characters typed per minute or typing errors made when standing compared to sitting.
In one seven-week study using a standing desk use, participants not only reported less fatigue, tension, confusion, and depression, but more vigor, energy, focus, and happiness. Even more significant, when they returned to their seated desks, their overall mood returned to baseline levels.
By the way, this idea isn't exactly new. While they may not have had studies backing up their preference to stand up while working, Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway, and even Donald Rumsfeld all reportedly used stand-up desks.
"Sedentary time at very high levels is associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease independent of other well-established risk factors, including low physical activity and high body-mass index." Dr Ambarish Pandey (University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas) and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis of nine prospective cohort studies published before July 6, 2015 covering 720,425 participants (mean age 54.5, 57.1% women) and 25,769 unique cardiovascular events. Median follow-up came to 11 years.
The meta-analysis was published online July 13, 2016 in JAMA Cardiology