Exercise vs. Standing? You Probably Need to Do Both

Moderate exercise does different things to the body than incidental activities like standing up.

Comments: 57

  1. Aim for burning roughly 2,500 calories per week through intentional physical activity which is based on studies performed in 1995. Otherwise, do like so many authoritative studies show is beneficial: combine aerobic activity with resistance exercises. Make sure your workout routines match your age. And if you are just starting a fitness routine, adjust it to your fitness level.

    There's lots of evidence-based information on proper exercising for physical and mental fitness. Ms. Reynolds articles are a great resource for keeping up with new fitness insights and science already knows a lot about how to improve quality and length of life with an age appropriate fitness routine.

  2. I think they're been a few later studies since 1995 because the current recommendation is 150 mins of exercise per week, as stated in this article, which would translate to under 1500 cals per week. [I'm basing that on a 600 cal/hour average which is actually pretty high for 'moderate' exercise.]

    Of course, current recommendations are the bare minimum that you can get away with to be healthy. People seem to be so reluctant to exercise at all, I suppose it was necessary for the CDC to reformulate the recommendation to be as easy as possible.

  3. Interesting side note- I recall that In many forms of Tai chi one of the first 'forms' they emphasize is the standing or Tree form. The originators of these forms believed that simply assuming a still standing posture for up to several hours a day with- occasional adjustments in body and foot positions- had many benefits, including: A Clearer mind, better posture, stronger legs and stances, better breathing and enhanced circulation of chi (known as 'prana' to yoginis).

    Some styles of Tai chi that were almost entirely made up of the standing form were, in fact, thought to be even more effective for enhancing physical and mental health (as well as for learning to control one's chi) by other, more dynamic or martial styles of Tai chi.

  4. Most of the exercise articles I have read in this space make little or no mention of how the findings apply to various age groups. I would like to see more studies that suggest how findings might be adjusted for the major age groups, and also studies that address the main concerns of different age groups, rather than the present practice of focusing primarily on younger and fitter subjects.

  5. There are loads of peer-reviewed journal articles on physical activity that may interest you, William. : )

  6. Personally, I think walking is hard wired into our species genes. Perhaps an evolutionary gift from the millennia we spent following the migration of our game animals, as hunter/gathers-Those tribal members who because of injury, debility or disease who couldn't keep-up with the migration were left up on a hill to meet their fate. And yes as a physiotherapist I have spent many an hour attempting to get many an elderly, injured or ill patient up and walking just as soon as possible (to keep-up with the tribe?)

  7. I always wondered how harmful it was to stand or walk for 8 hours at a time. For examples, cashiers, hair dressers, hot dog vendors in the baseball stands, etc.

  8. Standing presents as many unique risk factors as sitting for long periods. Consider that we have 100+ years of morbidity/mortality data on labor cohorts that stand exclusively during their work day in various industries, and over time they get diabetes and heart disease as often as those that sit, as well as other problems e.g. arthritis, venous insufficiencies, various joint and back problems, clots and embolisms, etc., that you don't get as much of when you sit. Doing anything for prolonged periods in a fixed posture is not a good idea.

  9. As a retail pharmacist for 20 years I can agree, standing in one small area for 8 hours a day causes achy legs, feet and backs for many of us that do these types of jobs. Also, my heart rate monitor watch will show no difference in heart rate if I’m sitting at home eating dinner or standing at work. Therefore, I too always question if standing is really better than sitting or do the benefits come in when frequent movement occurs?

  10. Physicists do half of their work standing up, either in front of a class, or at the board doing research with colleagues or working problems with students. They stay pretty healthy as they age, on the average.

  11. “People should understand,” he says, “that only moderate exercise is not enough and it’s also necessary to reduce prolonged sitting.”

    For over 40 years I've stood at my work, in addition to walking several miles per day and doing some light calisthenics and weight lifting. This combination makes me feel my best; at 62 I take no medications and have the same weight and physical activity as I was in my 20's (knock on wood!). Until recently people thought standing at work was strange; I received plenty of flak for it. Fortunately in the past 10 years science has caught up to my observations, and standing at office work is becoming more socially acceptable.

  12. Besides this fascinating new study there is evidence presented in studies for more than 10 years that sitting is an independent risk factor. Meaning: we already know that prolonged sitting is not good for you and for the past three years even your iPhone will tell you that it is time to rise up...

  13. Dr. Duvivier seems unfamiliar with actual working conditions in offices in the USA. Most companies expect their workers to have their butts in their chairs ALL the time (except for bathroom breaks & lunch) - and often for an excessive number of hours a day.

    Can Dr. Duvivier explain how people are supposed to earn a living in the real world, working 9-14 hours a day, which leaves no time or energy for exercise? I haven't had an actual "lunch hour" in over 15 years. And my company uses software that shows an "alert" if a person has NOT touched their keyboard in the previous 15 minutes.

    It's great that they're doing these studies, but they ignore REALITY. Yeah, my blood work could be better - but then I wouldn't have a job!

  14. It ain't pretty, but my laptop is now propped on a box and I stand instead of sit for most of my day. I am a teacher who prefers to walk around the room, but sometimes you just need to be at the desk. Sitting at work and on the couch after work was not doing me any favors. Feeling better after only a week.

  15. I bought a bed tray (tray with attached legs) to use to elevate my laptop so I could use it while standing. It's a good size for a laptop and has space for a mouse.

  16. I agree with your assessment of today's working environments. I live in the SF Bay Area and my work takes me into all sorts of businesses. I'd suggest:
    1. If your company allows it, stand to work but do "active standing" meaning keeping your body shifting side to side, knees slightly bent, always slightly moving. Consider gel insoles (like little waterbeds in your shoes) to encourage more and constant motion.
    2. Do "active sitting" meaning, sit upright but at the edge of your seat, engaging more muscles and micro-movements. Consider sitting on a balance disc (simulates sitting on a ball) to encourage even more micro-movement.
    3. Do constant little exercises while working like glute sets, toe raises, knee extensions.
    4. Use a foam roller as a "footrest". Keep your legs constantly moving.
    3. Get outside at lunch, for even a brief period, for fresh, humidified air and more movement. Walk around the block if you have the time. Use this time to breathe, relax and come into your body.

  17. I'll ask the same question I have been asking for years now: What about those of us that use wheelchairs and have to sit? What can we do to help ourselves? Not everyone is a fit, able-bodied person.

  18. Standing frames or modified standing frames which may accommodate various levels of lower extremity weakness and perhaps concurrent contracture may help. Visit with a rehabilitation center in your area which has access to standing frames to see if this is something you can use-But remember to ask your MD first. Good Luck.

  19. I try to build exercise into my daily activities.

    Chairs and sofas induced a comfortable immobility in my body. My muscles didn't engage much. There was soreness. I got weaker.

    So, I looked East for a remedy, back to the years I spent stationed in Japan and South Korea.

    The upshot is that I still sit a lot, but now on floor mats, not on chairs.

    This practice builds an automatic form of exercise into my daily routine.

    I have to use my muscles, just a little, to sit down and to stand up, and to maintain a comfortable seated posture.

    It is a small thing, but I'm 63, and unlike many of my peers, I have maintained an adequate level of strength and mobility.

  20. Excellent solution-Wondering if the folks in the Middle East and Asia who are more accustomed to sitting on mats and carpeting have as many problems with (for instance) back problems?

  21. I've often wondered about these sitting studies...does it make a difference if you're moving while sitting? I'm often lifting my legs, for instance, while sitting at a computer, or moving my arms or hands up & down or rocking side to side in my chair, i.e. doing mini-exercises while at a desk.

    And what about playing the piano? Sitting, yes, but you're also moving your arms & hands a lot & often whole upper torso, & your ankles & leg muscles are involved too.

    I have trouble standing for long (bad back). So, do these conclusions about sitting take moving while sitting or using muscles while sitting into consideration? I'd really like to know.

  22. Lynnli, isometric (static) exercises can increase your level fitness. And they can be done while sitting st your desk. I practiced Iyengar yoga intensely for many years. One major difference between Iyengar and other forms is the length of time one holds positions (asanas). It might look as though someone holding a Warrior pose for five minutes is not doing much, but even in that simple pose all of the muscles are contracting. It builds muscle much more effectively than flailing around.

    You can perform a series of tense -hold-relax exercises while working your computer or talking in the phone. Here is a list of suggestions:


  23. I have a under the desk cycle and have cycle 10 miles a day at resistance 5 or six after a month I did not see nay weight-loss( and I could stand to lose some at my age ;) it did keep me from having swollen feet.I think any exercise is good and we are at age where everything is pretty much a desk job , sadly. Students in school do not move enough either !

  24. One factoid that has always fascinated me (when I worked in IT slaving over a desk) was my observation that most people in IT appeared to be very healthy. Bill Gates, Zuckerberg, and most others I met during the many computer shows I attended looked good, but I'm sure they put in their time hunched over. Now, CPA's were a different story!

  25. Really? You are citing the excellent heath of billionaire CEOs (albeit one retired) as examples? I live on the outskirts of Silicon Valley. I assure you that plenty of IT employees working below the level of Top Brass are podgy and bent over and constantly snarfing junk food while working long hours at a desk. It’s true that in Silicon Valley there exists a weird obsession with finding (and monetizing) the perfect nutritional item or program that will make people smart and young and maybe even immortal. But that’s being driven my the VC crowd, not IT.

  26. Then there was Jobs. May he rest in peace.

  27. My understanding of the research is that it is the *transition* between sitting and standing that matters because it engages large muscle groups like glutes, hamstrings, etc. So an all-standing desk may be problematic, but an adjustable one would be helpful if you switch it up a few times a day.

    For people who e.g. are time-bound to their desks, like a customer service rep or phone sales rep, can you take a couple of calls while standing each hour?

    Personally I am fortunate that my job involves a lot of meetings. So every 30 or 60 minutes I stand up and walk a couple of minutes, maybe including some stairs, to get to my next meeting.

  28. For years I have worked while walking slowly on a treadmill desk made from a wooden plank attached to the handlebars of a treadmill. I, and many people I know, find it uncomfortable to stand motionless for long periods — the "standing desk" approach — but have no problem working for hours (I take five minute breaks every 25 minutes) at a slow walking pace.

    Over the last seven years I've seen a clear correlation between my general level of wellbeing and regular use of my walking desk for (typically) a couple of hours a day. For me this is an ideal way to combine desk work with gentle, healthy, standing movement.

    I share my approach and observations here: https://www.conferencesthatwork.com/index.php/personal-effectiveness/201...

  29. That's all very nice, but there's a good deal of research to show that concentration goes down as physical activity goes up. The busier you are walking or jogging, the less you can concentrate on what you are doing right on front of you at "work".

  30. The Times needs to tell people what any good doctor would: one small, suggestive study is not conclusive and not sufficient make a reccomendation to change your behavior.

  31. @David
    Why isn't this enough: "Of course, this study was small and quite short-term, with each session lasting only four days. Over a longer period of time, the biological impacts of both moderate exercise and less sitting would likely become broader and more encompassing."

  32. I read this study and add it to the other information I have learned: standing wheel chairs help non-ambulatory people, your legs are your second "pump", to determine if this sounds reasonable. Then I might say that sounds like something I should try to see if it helps. This whole thing of sitting is chicken vs egg. Are the people I know, who sit, unhealthy because they sit or do they sit because they are unhealthy?

  33. This is not the first study that strongly suggests there are adverse health effects when sitting for a long time. But let's assume for argument's sake that the evidence is not so clear, that to settle the science on this issue you would want to have at least a few independent large studies and then we wait until a review article appears where scientists rigorously examine the results of these different studies to see hat conclusions can be drawn.

    The question one can ask is whether one should wait until such a review article appears a few years down the line, or whether one should try to sit less during the day right away.

    We should consider that the chair was not invented and used based on medical research to enhance our health. So, it's not that this new research result is overturning older medical research results, if that were the case you would obviously want to have a lot more evidence before acting on that new evidence.

    The chair was used long before the scientific method was invented, we now have hints that it isn't safe to use for long time periods. We should then act on those hints and limit the use of chairs. If it later becomes clear that sitting for long periods is not a problem, we would not have suffered any adverse health effects by not using the chair.

  34. What about a sitting at a desk arrangement, but under your taller than normal desk would be pedals and a friction wheel, like spin cycle. Set it to a low rpm that allows you to still concentrate. Study like that should be done. May revolutionize the work desk.

  35. Check online. People make biking desks now.

  36. Lost me at “calculatedly exaggerated lifestyles.” I don’t think you can extrapolate meaningful data from a false situation. Fourteen hours sitting with nothing more than bathroom breaks? It’s the equivalent of testing whether a substance is toxic or mutagenic by force feeding to mice at 500 times normal exposure. Professional gamers sit that long (and reportedly wear diapers so they can eliminate in place), but they are outliers.

  37. Lots of people sit for 14 hrs a day- 8 hrs at work, then driving, eating, reading, computer time, and watching TV. I think the study pretty closely simulates real life.

  38. Eric L Adams needs to get a separate monitor and get it up to eye level. His posture in that picture is terrible.

  39. I hadn't even noticed that. You're right, it's the the opposite of ergonomic. Nothing is at the right height for his body. The keyboard should be at elbow height and he should have a separate monitor on a separate shelf up around eye level. There are good standing desks, but that thing in the photo is not one of them. I feel sorry for his cervical vertebrae. I hope he goes online and finds something decent.

  40. I tested standing desks (using a box on a table) and quickly found pain in my knees and sore feet.

    I can walk for hours - typically 3-4 hours with no problem.

    But stand still and I get sore feet within a few minutes.

    An analogy known to male partners is waiting for female partner shopping for clothes - the feeling of all your energy being drained from your body - the ennui of 'kill me now'.

    Muscles were made for movement - to help pump the blood.

    When we stop moving, we die.

  41. If I’m not mistaken, Hemingway wrote most of his masterpieces while standing upright. When pressed for an explanation, he said something along these lines: “You never want to be too comfortable when you write.” I have found this to be true. My best writing has always occurred while I was standing at the kitchen counter, my mind more on getting that first “Cup of Joe” than penning the “Great American Novel.” Thanks, Papa!

  42. I just be sure to wear good shoes, and to move around a bit while I work. It's working quite well for me. It doesn't feel at all like waiting for a male partner to do anything.

  43. Pretty cool. Although my insulin resistance is bad e.g. I have or I am having trouble getting my A1 C down but that is yet to be determined since I’ve started taking a once in a week injectable insulin type true list city. But I’m gonna keep meanerinding around like I do these days finally getting to the projects that have all my life wanted to do (and then finding out I have way too many of those projects)

  44. My mom is now in a wheelchair--her knees are shot, and she is told old for transplants. If moving is so important--and I certainly believe it is--it would be nice to see those exoskeleton gizmos covered by medicare. Otherwise, we are just sitting around (literally and metaphorically) watching all our old folks without mobility inevitably decline.

  45. "Moderate exercise does different things to the body than incidental activities like standing up."

    NO! I don't believe it. It can't be true! Liars!

  46. I'd like to see studies of pilots, especially long-haul, who have to sit for hours and hours.

  47. "recommendation translates into 30 minutes almost daily of exercise that should be brisk enough to raise our heart rates and make us gasp a bit for breath. "

    Another reason to Not avoid intimacy every chance you get.

  48. I recently purchased an adjustable standing desk riser for my desk. Standing feels much better than sitting down. I bet it shrinks the waistline too, because when you sit down, your waist naturally spreads and your stomach naturally pushes out. Standing up, I naturally want to hold my stomach in so that the ab muscles support the back. If they test these results in a bigger, longer study, they should look at waistline measurement too.

  49. I wonder what scientists in the field think of 4 days' studies of this kind.

  50. Standing up to injustice is even better exercise.

  51. I’m going to show this to my fellow N train riders.

  52. I love to walk, but I love to read even more. My NYT alone, whether I read online or in print, takes hours. Then there's my other reading, online and off.

    Please NYT, tell me how I can be fit and be well-read at the same time. I'd love to know. (And I've tried reading on treadmills, rowers, etc. It make me sick.)

  53. Audiobooks

  54. I think Jean Brody’s articles are fascinating and useful - a great combination. I share them often with family and friends. This is another one I plan to share.

    I have a standup desk both at home and at work. It’s a piece that sits on top of my regular desk and can be raised and lowered by squeezing levers on either side. I have found the best combination to be some hours every day up and the other hours down. About half. I try to move a bit too rather than standing still for hours so I don’t get stiff (I’m in my late 60s.) I bought a 2 foot by 6 foot rubber pad to stand on and find that helps too to prevent leg pain from standing too long.

    An odd thing - I’m a university professor so spend a lot of time writing articles and books. It’s easier for me to do that sitting rather than standing. Not sure why. So I tend to do emails and shorter pieces standing and the longer thinking work sitting.

  55. Gretchen is usually just terrific on health news, but please consider that there are WAAAY too few people in this study to make it meaningful. 61 adults are divided into 3 groups for different ways to interrupt lots of sitting. That's about 20 per group.
    Sorry, no matter how precise the blood tests are, that is way too small a study to be anything but interesting. Stats calculations can look great but 20 in a group is just tiny. What would be the threshold for OK? Not easy to give a precise figure. But 100 per group is a start. 1,000 in a study is a whole lot better.

  56. Since sleep is good for us maybe we should just make sure to lie down during our awake hours and shun mere sitting. Of course, do get in those necessary minutes of exercise per week.