Mayo Clinic Health Report

Killer Chairs: How Desk Jobs Ruin Your Health

Standing more, even at a desk job, could lower risk for obesity, illness and death, studies suggest

Chairs: we sit in them, work in them, shop in them, eat in them and date in them. Americans sit for most of their waking hours, 13 hours every day on average. Yet chairs are lethal.

This grim conclusion may surprise you, but 18 studies reported during the past 16 years, covering 800,000 people overall, back it up. In 2010, for example, the journal Circulation published an investigation following 8,800 adults for seven years. Those who sat for more than four hours a day while watching television had a 46 percent increase in deaths from any cause when compared with people who sat in front of the tube for less than two hours. Other researchers have found that sitting for more than half the day, approximately, doubles the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular problems. Overall, when you combine all causes of death and compare any group of sitters with those who are more active, sitters have a 50 percent greater likelihood of dying.

Sitting for long periods is bad because the human body was not designed to be idle. I have worked in obesity research for several decades, and my laboratory has studied the effect of sedentary lifestyles at the molecular level all the way up to office design. Lack of movement slows metabolism, reducing the amount of food that is converted to energy and thus promoting fat accumulation, obesity, and the litany of ills—heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and more—that come with being overweight. Sitting is bad for lean people, too. For instance, sitting in your chair after a meal leads to high blood sugar spikes, whereas getting up after you eat can cut those spikes in half.

The public usually associates these health problems with eating too much, not with sitting too much. My experience with people who struggle with their weight has led me to think that sitting habits might be just as pernicious. Still, a sedentary way of life might be easier to change than eating habits.

Peter (not his real name), a client in one of my programs in Minneapolis, told me, “I'm stuck.” He was 44 years old, 50 pounds overweight and had type 2 diabetes. His doctor wanted him to start insulin injections. I sent him to my lab at the Mayo Clinic. There he watched the data as we measured his metabolic rate: strolling at less than two miles per hour increased his energy expenditure by 200 calories an hour. Afterward, Peter and I walked and talked. “Just by conducting two of your daily meetings strolling like this,” I explained to him, “you'll burn 400 extra calories a day.”

Peter took the advice to heart and began these easy walks. He did not diet, yet in the first year after his assessment, he lost 25 pounds. He dropped 10 more the next year. Peter never needed insulin and—as happens in many diabetics who lose weight—stopped taking diabetes medications altogether. He took this “get up” message home: he started going on bicycle rides and art gallery strolls with his family.

Peter is not alone in his success. Many studies support the view that simple movement has dramatic health effects. What is more, the effects do not require thrice-weekly visits to the gym or daily jogs that people soon abandon when the regimens become inconvenient. Nonexercise motion, done for several periods a day, can do the trick. And workers, companies and schools have already begun to institute an array of measures that encourage employees to get up out of their chairs.


“I’m passionate about small business” says the demure Manhattanite about her work and mission: a platform that helps New Yorkers, and the world, discover the borough’s hidden side street gems. It’s a simple sentiment everyone might say, but it’s a life mission for Betsy Polivy, founder and creator of the newly minted

Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization DNS

  1. The nervous system establishes programs that control human posture, movement and gait. This ‘motor control’ is largely established during the first critical years of life. Therefore, the “Prague School” emphasizes neurodevelopmental aspects of motor control in order to assess and restore dysfunction of the locomotor system and associated syndromes.

Rehabilitation and Exercise for a Healthy Back

People who suffer from lower back pain are encouraged to help with their own recovery by exercising and getting physical therapy, but are seldom given the knowledge and tools needed to accomplish this. This discussion will provide a basic understanding of the causes of lower back pain, and discuss appropriate steps to exercise and rehabilitate a painful back.

The Allergy Buster
For nine years, the greatest challenge Kim Yates Grosso faced each day was keeping her daughter Tessa safe. Tessa was so severely allergic to milk, wheat, eggs, nuts, shellfish and assorted other foods that as a toddler she went into anaphylactic shock when milk fell on her skin. Kim never left her with a baby sitter.