Sedentary lifestyle and overweight weaken arterial health already in childhood

University of Eastern Finland
Press release, 11 September 2015

Sedentary lifestyle and overweight weaken arterial health already in childhood

Arterial wall stiffness and reduced arterial dilation are the first signs of cardiovascular diseases that can be measured. The Physical Activity and Nutrition in Children Study (PANIC) carried out in the Institute of Biomedicine at the University of Eastern Finland shows that low levels of physical activity, weaker physical fitness and higher body fat content are linked to arterial stiffness already in 6-8 year-old children. The study sample included 160 children, and the findings were published in Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports.

Physically active and fit persons have more flexible arterial walls already in childhood

The study showed that better physical fitness, plenty of leisure time physical activity and a low body fat percentage were associated with more flexible arterial walls already in primary school children. An analysis of the joint effects of these factors shows that only physical fitness was independently linked to arterial stiffness. Children whose physical fitness was better than that of their peers also had a better arterial dilation capacity during physical exercise.

Furthermore, the study showed that children with weak physical fitness combined with a high body fat percentage or low levels of physical activity also had the stiffest arteries. Moreover, higher arterial stiffness was also found in children with low levels of physical activity combined with a high body fat percentage. Children with the most physical activity or with the best physical fitness had the most flexible arteries and the best arterial dilation capacity.

Prevention of cardiovascular diseases best begun in childhood

The PANIC Study has earlier shown that the cumulation of risk factors for type 2 diabetes and vascular diseases in people who are overweight and physically passive begins already in childhood. This is a major concern because the cumulation of risk factors in childhood significantly increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, vascular diseases and premature death in adulthood. The study published now shows measurable adverse changes in the arteries of children with less physical activity, weaker physical fitness and higher body fat content.

The findings suggest that a lifestyle intervention in childhood can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases later in life. Another finding of the study deserving special attention is the association of better physical fitness with better arterial health, suggesting that especially regular, high-intensity physical exercise can be beneficial for arterial health.

PANIC Study – a source of scientifically valuable data on children’s health

The Physical Activity and Nutrition in Children Study, PANIC, is an on-going lifestyle intervention study. A total of 512 children aged 6 to 8 years participated in the onset measurements in 2007–2009. The study applies scientifically sound methods to extensively study the lifestyles, health and well-being of children. The study provides novel information on children’s physical activity and passivity, nutrition, physical condition, body composition, metabolism, vascular system, brain function, oral health, life quality, effects of exercise and nutrition on children’s health and well-being, and their effects on health care costs.

For further information, please contact:

Aapo Veijalainen, Lic.Med., Institute of Biomedicine, tel. +358409373828

Timo A. Lakka, Professor of Medical Physiology, Internal Medicine Specialist, Institute of Biomedicine, tel. +358407707329

Website of the Physical Activity and Nutrition in Children (PANIC) Study:

Sitting Will Kill You, Even If You Exercise

Originally posted here for CNN.

By: Jen Christensen

One of your favorite activities may actually be killing you.

Our entire modern world is constructed to keep you sitting down. When we drive, we sit. When we work at an office, we sit. When we watch TV, well, you get the picture.

And yet, a new study that’s running in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that this kind of sedentary behavior increases our chances of getting a disease or a condition that will kill us prematurely, even if we exercise.

Researchers from Toronto came to this conclusion after analyzing 47 studies of sedentary behavior.

They adjusted their data to incorporate the amount someone exercises and found that the sitting we typically do in a day still outweighs the benefit we get from exercise. Of course, the more you exercise, the lower the impact of sedentary behavior.

The studies showed sedentary behavior can lead to death from cardiovascular issues and cancer as well as cause chronic conditions such as Type 2 diabetes.

Physical inactivity has been identified as the fourth-leading risk factor for death for people all around the world, according to the World Health Organization.

Prolonged sitting, meaning sitting for eight to 12 hours or more a day, increased your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 90%.

So what can you do to reduce the time you spend engaged in an activity that is not good for you?

The study authors did make some simple suggestions to help you sit less. One is to just be aware of how much you are sitting. That way you can make a goal of reducing that number a little bit each week.

If you are at work, you could try a standing desk or make it a goal to stand up or walk around for a minute or three once every half an hour.

If you watch TV at night, don’t zoom ahead during the commercials with your DVR. Instead walk around or at least stand up during the show break.

Sit Less, Live Longer?

Originally posted here for the New York Times.


If people need motivation to get up from their office chairs or couches and become less sedentary, two useful new studies could provide the impetus. One found that sitting less can slow the aging process within cells, and the other helpfully underscores that standing up — even if you are standing still — can be good for you as well.

For most of us nowadays, sitting is our most common waking activity, with many of us sitting for eight hours or more every day. Even people who exercise for an hour or so tend to spend most of the remaining hours of the day in a chair.

The health consequences of this sedentariness are well-documented. Past studies have found that the more hours that people spend sitting, the more likely they are to develop diabetes, heart disease and other conditions, and potentially to die prematurely — even if they exercise regularly.

But most of these studies were associational, meaning that they found a link between sitting and illness, but could not prove whether or how sitting actually causes ill health.

So for the most groundbreaking of the new studies, which waspublished this month in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, scientists in Sweden decided to mount an actual experiment, in which they would alter the amount of time that people spent exercising and sitting, and track certain physiological results. In particular, with this experiment, the scientists were interested in whether changes in sedentary time would affect people’s telomeres.

If you are unfamiliar with the componentry of your genes, telomeres are the tiny caps on the ends of DNA strands. They shorten and fray as a cell ages, although the process is not strictly chronological. Obesity, illness and other conditions can accelerate the shortening, causing cells to age prematurely, while some evidence suggests that healthy lifestyles may preserve telomere length, delaying cell aging.

For the new experiment, the Swedish scientists recruited a group of sedentary, overweight men and women, all aged 68, and drew blood, in order to measure the length of telomeres in the volunteers’ white blood cells. Then half of the volunteers began an individualized, moderate exercise program, designed to improve their general health. They also were advised to sit less.

The other volunteers were told to continue with their normal lives, although the scientists urged them to try to lose weight and be healthy, without offering any specific methods.

After six months, the volunteers all returned for a second blood draw and to complete questionnaires about their daily activities. These showed that those in the exercise group were, not surprisingly, exercising more than they had been previously. But they were also, for the most part, sitting substantially less than before.

And when the scientists compared telomeres, they found that the telomeres in the volunteers who were sitting the least had lengthened. Their cells seemed to be growing physiologically younger.

Meanwhile, in the control group telomeres generally were shorter than they had been six months before.

But perhaps most interesting, there was little correlation between exercise and telomere length. In fact, the volunteers in the exercise group who had worked out the most during the past six months tended now to have slightly less lengthening and even some shortening, compared to those who had exercised less but stood up more.

Reducing sedentary time had lengthened telomeres, the scientists concluded, while exercising had played little role.

Exactly what the volunteers did in lieu of sitting is impossible to say with precision, said Per Sjögren, a professor of public health at Uppsala University in Sweden, who led the study, because the researchers did not track their volunteers’ movement patterns with monitors. But “it’s most likely,” he said, that “sitting time was predominantly replaced with low-intensity activities,” and in particular with time spent standing up.

Which makes the second new study of sedentary behavior particularly relevant. Standing is not, after all, physically demanding for most people, and some scientists have questioned whether merely standing up — without also moving about and walking — is sufficiently healthy or if standing merely replaces one type of sedentariness with another.

If so, standing could be expected to increase health problems and premature death, as sitting has been shown to do.

To find out whether that situation held true, Peter Katzmarzyk, a professor of public health at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La., and an expert on sedentary behavior, turned to a large database of self-reported information about physical activity among Canadian adults. He noted the amount of time that the men and women had reported standing on most days over the course of a decade or more and crosschecked that data with death records, to see whether people who stood more died younger.

The results, published in May in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, are soothing if predictable. Dr. Katzmarzyk found no link between standing and premature death. Rather, as he writes in the study, “mortality rates declined at higher levels of standing,” suggesting that standing is not sedentary or hazardous, a conclusion with which our telomeres would likely concur.


Sitting Is Bad for You. So I Stopped. For a Whole Month.

Originally published in New York Magazine, written by Dan Kois, 6/9/2014. Find the original here.

Note: We actually did allow Dan Kois to sit down when driving. Do not attempt this maneuver yourself.

(Photo: Chris Buck)


Are you sitting down?

Nice knowin’ ya! 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.

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.

And so a growing cadre of lean, mean, self-satisfied office workers are exploring standing or even walking on a treadmill at work. They’re trying to maximize their vigor, and also the tiny muscle movements that standing fosters—weight-shifting, stretching, walking around. Sitters, meanwhile, are basically already corpses: Their “muscles go as silent as those of a dead horse,” a researcher memorably told The New York Times Magazine.

If sitting at work is terrible for me, shouldn’t I stop? And if I do, shouldn’t I stop sitting everywhere? I decided to spend a month on my feet: 30 days never being a couch potato, an office slug, a sitting duck. The exceptions, agreed upon with my editor: I would sit to drive (but would strive to take the train); I would sit when nature called. I would also sit to put my shoes on, I decided this morning after falling over trying to put on my shoes. I would lie down to sleep, although I surely wouldn’t need sleep, given that I’d be so healthy.

I ordered insoles and an anti-fatigue mat and doohickeys to transform my office and home desks into standing workstations. I strapped on a fitness tracker to measure my activity. And I woke up this first morning ready to stand in the place where I live, and stand in the place where I work. My feet are going to be on the ground—ah, shit, do my feet ever hurt.

My Standing Diary

April 1

9:00 My standing desk hasn’t arrived, so I’ve set my laptop on the kitchen counter atop Gary Larson’s four-inch-thick collection, The Complete Far Side 1980–1994.

9:13 Confident! My wife walks past and says, “You seem impressive.” I feel impressive! These new cross-trainers I’m wearing definitely give me better arch support than most of my shoes.

10:02 I’m already shifting from foot to foot to ease pressure on my back. I bend way over and my vertebrae crackle ominously. Perhaps a stool, upon which the heroic stander may rest one foot while the other bears the load, is in order?

11:24 Time for a short walk. My calves ache, as if standing for three hours is more exercise than I get in one typically slovenly, indolent day. After my walk, I check my fitness stats—I’ve already taken almost as many steps as I did on a typical day last week, and I’ve been up for only three and a half hours.

12:45 Lunch at the counter. Spill mayonnaise on my shirt.

2:41 Definitely having trouble getting work done. The idea of opening up a new document to edit feels crushing, as though each task I take on carries with it the additional burden of standing the whole time. But hey, it’s the first day! I’ll get used to this.

4:02 Made it! Walking to bus stop. Walking feels way better than just standing.

6:00 Lie down in bed for just a second to rest my eyes and fall instantly asleep even though both my kids are shouting at the tops of their lungs in the next room.

7:30 Dinner. The family eats at the table; I eat at the counter. My younger daughter, H., cannot believe what I am doing. She takes my hand and leads me to a chair, as if perhaps I have forgotten we own it. “But why are you not allowed to sit down?” she asks. “Because it’s healthier,” I say. “And a man at a magazine is paying me money.”

8:50 Tennis with a friend. Usually we are very competitive; today I barely avoid getting bageled. Driving to and from the court is a real treat, though.


By 5 p.m. each day, all the attention that I once might have paid to office politics or world news is focused on my heels.

(Photo: Chris Buck)


10:00 Watch Game of Thrones. My wife is cuddled under a blanket on the couch. I am upright in the middle of the room, shifting from foot to foot like I have to pee.

11:35 Lie down in bed. Feels great. Gonna do some reading.

11:35:05 Asleep.

TOTAL SIT: 25 minutes (15 car, 10 toilet)







“Sitting was killing me,” says Michael Perko. I’m in my office at work, keyboard up on an aluminum tray, talking to him on speakerphone as I type. “When we sit for long periods of time, the enzymes responsible for burning fat shut down. Sitting too much can lower good cholesterol, HDL, and lead to a slower metabolism. In essence, sitting can cause the disease process.”

Perko, a professor at UNC-Greensboro, is a cheerful anti-sitting agitator: “Even if you’re active,” he says, “even if you get up at five and do your P90X—if you sit six hours a day, those benefits are negated.”

I explain my upstanding monthlong project, and his upbeat demeanor falters a bit. “Yeah, you know, this happens a lot. You get religion, and you go to the other extreme. I did it. I had no idea that I was wearing the wrong shoes and I didn’t have a good fatigue mat.”

“I’m good on those!” I say confidently.

Yyyyyeah,” he replies. “If you have any musculoskeletal problems, doing it all at once is not the right thing to do.”

“My back feels okay,” I lie.

“Well, good luck!” he signs off. “I hope you suffer no lasting effects!”

April 3

4:00 You know what’s an awkward place to stand? A movie theater. I’m watching a movie that I totally love, but I’m standing by the exit door, the only place I am not in other people’s way, except when they go to the bathroom and eye me like I’m an alien serial killer. I’m not the alien serial killer here! Scarlett Johansson is! I just like to watch films while hopping up and down and pacing, okay, pal?

TOTAL SIT: 45 minutes (40 car, 5 toilet)

I am already benefiting from my constant standing. So long, two o’clock snoozies. I’ve lost a couple of pounds. The shoulder tension and pain from hunching over a keyboard is gone, and my upper body feels ten years younger. For much of the day I am legitimately more productive. A basic work scenario: I’m stuck on a sentence and can’t figure out how to fix it. Sitting Dan opens a new tab in his browser and 15 minutes disappear. Standing Dan, meanwhile, takes a short walk around the office, maybe gets a snack, but who cares because Standing Dan is burning thousands of calories walking three miles a day.

But I can’t work into the night. By the early evening I’m wiped out, and it doesn’t seem to be getting better as the days go by. Instead, I’m just more tired and more sore. My calves and ankles and hips are possessed by separate dull, throbbing aches that never dissipate. I’m popping Tylenol, stretching, and toe-touching all day.

And my heels! How often do most guys notice or think about their actual heels? Never. But by 5 p.m. each day, all the attention that I once might have paid to office politics or world news is focused there. My family? My libido? Nope, heels. Somehow they are both throbbing and somewhat numb. If I take a shoe off and grab one, I can’t feel my own fingers on my skin, but my heel doesn’t stop hurting. So that’s a problem.

April 6

11:45 Extremely nice walk with older daughter, L., to shopping center for lunch (at tall table) and home. Walking a long way used to feel like work; now it’s a blissful respite from standing in one place.

4:15 Wife, on the phone to her mom: “Yeah, he’s standing up right now.” (Pause.) “Um, slightly more grumpy than usual.”

7:30 We’ve got tickets to a play tonight. I sit in my seat, on the grounds that I don’t want to be escorted out. Probably a cop-out. It feels so, so, so, so good.

TOTAL SIT: 125 minutes (90 play, 30 car, 5 toilet)


At the office I am quick to tell co-workers that this is a stunt, that they shouldn’t expect me to seem healthy and awesome forever. The $149WorkEZ desk trays I ordered are shaky and annoying. At home, I use a much more enjoyable (and thrice as expensive) Kangaroo Pro, lent to me by the nice people at Ergo Desktop, which slides up and down like a dream but takes over my entire desk.

During meetings, I move around the conference room, adopting the positions that band members strike in terrible publicity photos. (One knee flexed, foot pressed against wall; crouching; resting on heels, arms folded.) The power poses are hard to maintain, and anyway I’m always on the outskirts of the meeting so my contributions seem speakerphoned even to those in the room. Then I take the train home and, no matter how many seats are open, I’m upright in the middle of the car.


Enforced standing has made me realize how much of my time bonding with my family is spent seated.

(Photo: Chris Buck)


April 14

8:30 Wife is super-impressed with me as I use scissors to trim Dr. Scholl’s insoles at the kitchen counter while our kids eat breakfast. The guy at the deli counter recommended them to me! I roll back and forth. They feel pretty good!

7:00 One day on these insoles and they’ve gone completely Flat Stanley.

TOTAL SIT: 20 minutes (15 car, 5 toilet)






When I finally do lie down in bed each night, my calves spasm for like half an hour. I am hitting snooze on my alarm more mornings than I have since the era of late-night feedings. That daily trick we all play every morning—where we fool ourselves that the bright and awful day has more to offer us than our warm bed, just for a moment, just long enough to get up—is much tougher to pull off when I know I have 17 consecutive hours of standing ahead of me. Let me lie down a little longer, I think. Let this not count.

April 22

7:00 Feel unusually happy and close to my family this evening. Realize why when H. yells, “You’re sitting!”: I absentmindedly plunked down at the table through dinner.

8:30 At bedtime, I read stories to the kids, not snuggled up cozily next to them but looming over their beds like an Edwardian headmaster. “You shoulda never said yes to writing that story, Dad,” says L. dolefully, shaking her head at the foolishness of it all. She’s right.

TOTAL SIT: 40 minutes (25 car, 10 accidental dinner, 5 toilet)

“Science has known for a long time that standing all the time is bad for you,” Dr. April Chambers tells me. “Longer than we’ve known about sitting.” Chambers, a professor of bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh, studies people who are on their feet all day at work. She reminds me that most standers aren’t jerks like me, doing it for a stunt—they’re workers with no choice. “Seven of the ten top occupations require standing for a prolonged period,” she says. “Retail, manufacturing, health care: There are big workforces where people stand a lot.”

Because of the density of research that ceaseless standing causes health problems —varicose veins, lower-back pain, increased risk of stroke—many workplaces now supply sit-stand stools or at least foster movement by employees. (Capitalism being capitalism, it didn’t hurt that research also showed that uninterrupted standing hurt worker productivity.) In jobs where standing all day is the norm, a kind of lore is passed down from worker to worker—it’s why so many female nurses, for example, swear by Dansko clogs, and many factory workers use Superfeet insoles. One nurse told me he’s worn the same model of Asics running shoes for over ten years, stocking up whenever they go on sale.

The lesson from Dr. Chambers is the same lesson I’ve heard from every scientist, from my doctor and my wife and an appalled massage therapist: Standing all the time is no better than sitting all the time. The key is—surprise!—to do some of each. How much? Opinions differ. “Yes, a sedentary life is bad,” says Chambers, “but no one seems to have identified yet where that healthy balance is between sedentary and standing.” Nearly all the scientists I talk to have sit-stand desks; they set alarms or use apps and utilities like BreakTime to remind them to stand up for about ten minutes every hour. They stand for meetings and phone calls—“I’m standing right now!” I keep hearing from scientists—and then they plop down to write or read.

Even when you’re standing still and working, you can do things to ease the pressure on your legs. Dr. Jack Callaghan of the University of Waterloo tells me that in his research on standing and back pain, the primary difference he sees between “pain developers” and “non–pain developers” is posture. “Raising a foot—I have a blue recycle bin and I’ve turned it over, and I alternate legs, putting one foot on that and then the other.” It also helps to stand on a very slight slope, “one that can raise your toes just a little bit.” When I explain the situation to a massage therapist, she intones, “Oh, shit,” then teaches me a great Achilles stretch. These techniques, plus my own steady stream of invective, help make my later weeks on my feet more tolerable than the earlier ones.

Until April 28.

April 28

Hit wall. Completely fucking dead. Wife rubbed my feet tonight. If Sitting Dan got a foot massage from his wife, he’d thank her. Standing Dan is a whiny asshole. Email to friend: “If a nun gave me a $100 bill I would be like, screw you, my legs hurt.”

My dotage seems unpromising if I respond to relatively minor pain this badly. I have been really lucky in my life, healthwise; if/when I get some chronic condition I better medicate heavily so that I don’t get divorced/disowned by children.

 TOTAL SIT: 60 minutes (40 car; 20 toilet, comprising four ­bathroom breaks, each representing one game of ­Candy Crush)

“Sitting, the great leveler,” Mr. Burns memorably told Homer Simpson. “From the lowliest peasant to the mightiest pharaoh, who doesn’t enjoy a good sit?” Another great leveler is awkwardness around the guy who’s standing up when everyone is sitting. I had never really thought about the social implications of standing versus sitting until this month brought them to the fore. At restaurants, I feel as though I’m delivering an hourlong toast; at the playground, my mien is transformed from relaxed-dad-on-a-bench to that of a pacing nervous parent, ready to intervene at the slightest sign of trouble.

More than that, this enforced standing has made me realize how much of my time bonding with my family is spent seated. Now we play Crazy Eights with me hulking over the table like a grudgingly accepted giant. I’ve begged off story time because my kids don’t like craning their necks to see the pages, and I find it maddening not to be able to snuggle with them in bed. At the beach house we shared with my in-laws for Easter weekend, I was completely unable to relax or join anyone else in relaxing. I hovered around the edges of the living room as everyone else chatted and read, constantly checking my email because it was a thing I could do standing up. (The drive to the beach house was another story; never have I so enjoyed a seven-hour crawl down I-95.) What was meant to be a restful long weekend turned into a stressed-out ordeal, with me cast as the outsider unable to connect. It all came to a head at Easter dinner, during which I stood straight up as if in a Last Supper parody, loved ones assembled to each side, my roast lamb perched on that stupid aluminum work tray. All I wanted to do was just be for a little while! Instead, I could never stop thinking about my dumb, clumsy, painful body, not for a second.

On the last day of April, I take the Amtrak from Washington to New York, wedged between two stools at the counter in the café car of a crowded Acela. (The Acela: one hour less of standing on a train, well worth another hundred dollars.) An elderly couple kicks me out of my spot when they need a place to eat sandwiches, unmoved by my claims that I “can’t sit down anywhere.” “Well,” the husband says, “I can’t stand up for very long. So we have the opposite problem.”

My month has been an ordeal, but it’s clearly succeeded. I’ve lost almost five pounds and gained muscle in my legs, especially my calves. I’ve cut my time-wasting drastically, editing and writing more than in any month I can remember. I’ve walked 92.5 miles, basically without trying.

Tomorrow, on May 1, I have big plans to sit down all day. I’ll order lunch in and imperiously demand that all meetings take place in my office, like a sultan. But after that, I plan to work on my feet a lot, the memory of my all-day agonies reminding me that finding ten minutes an hour to be vertical is not that arduous. I stood up at family dinner for a month. Here’s hoping what I learned will keep me sitting down to family dinners, story times, and, yes, conference calls, for many years to come.

Why Using A Standing Desk At Work Could Save Your Life

Originally posted in Business Insider’s Science section, May 29, 2014. Check out the original link here.

Three centuries after Thomas Jefferson found standing up a superior way to work, a growing number of Americans are mulling the dangers of sitting down on the job — and opting to get on their feet.

Backaches. Muscular degeneration. Heart disease. Diabetes. Colon cancer. Even premature death is on the list of the potential consequences of a sedentary working life, according to a raft of studies on the topic.

“We’re sitting ourselves to an early death,” said Rob Danoff, a family physician in Pennsylvania and member of the American Osteopathic Association with a special interest in preventative medicine.

“We are a ‘potato’ society,” he told AFP in a telephone interview.

“We sit most of the day, so we are work potatoes — and then we go home and we are couch potatoes. That combination can be deadly.”

Risks of ‘prolonged sitting’

Adult Americans spend on average 7.7 hours a day engaged in “sedentary behavior,” the National Institutes of Health has reported.

And the American Osteopathic Association estimates that 70 percent of office workers spend more than five hours a day seated at their desks.

The longer people are sitting, the more difficult it is for their blood to circulate, explained Danoff, who cautioned that going to the gym after work affords no compensation.

According to a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine, the risk of premature death grows 15 percent for those who sit eight hours a day, and 40 percent for those who sit 11 hours a day, compared with those who sit just four hours.

Last year, the American Medical Association formally recognized the “potential risks of prolonged sitting” as it urged employers and employees alike to seek out alternatives to sitting, such as standing working stations — some even equipped with a treadmill — or isometric balls instead of desk chairs.

The message is starting to get around, with more Americans choosing standing desks — like Jefferson, one of the US founding fathers and third president, prolific architect and well-known tinkerer, who favored standing when doing his tasks.

“Standing desks have been popular probably for 20 years in Europe, but not in the United States,” said Jeffrey Meltzer, president of Applied Ergonomics, an Illinois firm that specializes in workspaces.

“In the States, they were seen as silly,” said Meltzer, adding that he noticed a significant shift in 2013 when sales of standing desks leaped 50 percent.


‘More pro-active’

In trend-setting California, with its youthful and cutting-edge technology sector, standing desks have become increasingly commonplace.

In Washington, Kathleen Hale, the 34-year-old co-founder of Rebel Desk, has found a market among lawyers, university professors and health professionals for standing desks with slow-paced treadmills attached.

“People have been working for healthier working environments since it’s the place where many of us are spending more time than we do with our families,” Hale said.

Bilaal Ahmed, 34, founder of the startup Linktank, has embraced the concept of an adjustable office, even if he is in excellent health.

“It’s more proactive,” he said. “It’s a desire to be healthy, to stay active even when I’m working. This is one of the best ways to do that.”

He added: “It’s not only to be standing, but also to have the computer at a certain level, so your arms are perpendicular to the body.”

If he gets tired, Ahmed simply flops down into a nearby chair. Overall, he said he feels more alert, more aware and more productive.

Hale recommends mixing up positions throughout the day.

“Sometimes you stand. Sometimes you walk. And when you need to, you sit, to take a break,” she said. “That’s how we encourage people to think about sitting — it’s a time to take a break.”

Danoff said staying in motion is key.

“We weren’t made to sit all day,” he said. “We were not made to stand all day. We were made to move. It’s all about balance.”

He said it is “unrealistic” to install standing desks in most places, as doing so could result in going from one extreme to another.

Just getting up for a moment every half-hour, going for a walk in the hallway, taking the stairs instead of the elevator and seeing a colleague instead of sending an email are all useful options.

“There are a lot of things that people can do which they don’t do,” he said. “You don’t need all this fancy equipment. There are common things to do.”

Copyright (2014) AFP. All rights reserved.

Read more:

The Chair

This article presents a critique of what may be thought of as the Western tradition of chair sitting and chair design. It begins by summarizing ®ve principles of
the Alexander Technique, which are applied to the problem of chair design. The surprisingly weak physiological and kinesthetic basis of chair design is described, raising the question of how and why the chair has become so important. To answer this question a brief history of chair development is presented. Part I concludes that
the representation of social status has distracted chair designers and users alike from designing chairs for physical well-being. On the basis of this critique, Part II develops
recommendations for body-conscious furniture and interiors.

Read Part I.

Read Part II.