Your Office Chair is Killing You

James A. Levine, co-director of the Mayo Clinic/Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative, author of Get Up!: Why Your Chair is Killing You and What You Can Do About It (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), and the inventor of the treadmill desk, explains why sitting is bad for health and longevity and how to add more movement to your workday.

What We Learned from the Inventor of the Treadmill Desk

    • There are a number of problems associated with chronic sitting: diabetes, hypertension, cancer, cardiovascular disease, depression, back pain.
    • Dr. James Levine’s goal is only 3 hours of sitting a day. He even stood at his microphone in our studio!
    • The ideal speed for your treadmill desk is 1.1 miles per hour. Keep in mind, the average walking speed is 3.1 miles per hour, so 1 mph is pretty leisurely.
    • What if I work out every morning before work – does that counteract the effects of sitting at the office? Dr. Levine says the benefits of a daily run are entirely offset by a day of sitting. He suggests starting by standing up at least once every hour and taking a stroll around the office.
  • Callers who use a treadmill desk said they experience… higher levels of energy throughout the day and after work, improved focus and attention, heightened productivity (Levine says corporate studies show productivity jumps 10%to 15% with treadmill desks).
  • What about standing desks? Exercise balls? Just as we’re not designed to sit for 13 hours a day, we’re not meant to stand for that long either. Standing creates other problems like varicose veins and lower back pain, and while exercise balls are good for your upper core, Dr. Levine sees them as a gateway to the treadmill desk.
  • It’s not really about the treadmill – the key is building movement into your day. People have an innate drive to move, and enabling that drive helps us learn and work better.
  • Kids need movement too! Levine designed a school that allows children to move around the classrooms freely. Teachers reported improved concentration, and students’ scores on state tests improved by about 10%. (And no, little boys aren’t more fidgety than little girls!)
  • What do you do to add movement to your day? Here are some suggestions from listeners, but feel free to add your own in the comments: take a daily walk during your lunch break, do lunges with your baby/pet/weights while watching TV, weed the garden, walk the bridges…