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Kill Your Desk Chair—and Start Standing

Sitting all day takes years off your life, doctors say. Is it time to join the vertical workforce?
Kill Your Desk Chair???and Start Standing
Photograph by Jason Nocito for Bloomberg Businessweek

Arise, office workers of the world! You have nothing to lose but your chairs. And even if they are of supple executive leather or high-tech Aeron mesh, those chairs are lethal. A raft of recent medical research has shown that the more time a person spends sitting every day, the more likely he or she is to suffer from heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, and, worst of all, an early death. One recent study, from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La., followed 17,000 Canadians over 12 years and found that those who sat for most of the day were 54 percent more likely to die of heart attacks than those who didn’t. The findings have spawned a new diagnosis: “sitting disease.” And strikingly, even regular exercise and a healthy diet don’t protect you—sitting in a chair for eight hours after going to the gym and munching on tempeh is still sitting.

For those in nonsedentary lines of work these findings are probably validating. But most Americans have the sort of jobs where they sit at desks while day by day their arteries harden and their bellies soften. The good news is that we don’t have to revert to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to combat this silent assassin. Many of the problems can be solved, researchers say, simply by getting up: standing and stretching once an hour or walking down the hall to talk to someone rather than sending an e-mail. A growing number of office workers, though, are opting for something more radical—they’re going seatless. Their savior is the standing desk.