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The health effects of prolonged sitting has been a hot topic lately, and Bob Patterson, MPT, MBA, CAE recently addressed the issue in the APTA’s orthopedic magazine.

For the average American who sits 13 hours/day, research results don’t offer good news. We know there are musculoskeletal hazards, but more recent data show links to deadly conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, & obesity. The 86% of Americans who have to sit all day at work may feel helpless to change their situation, but the American Medical Association (AMA) is on their side, recommending that employers offer alternatives to all-day sitting.

One recent trend is the use of sit-stand desks, but unfortunately new research is showing that prolonged standing is just as hazardous to our health as sitting. In fact, there is even higher risk of cardiovascular disease and blood clots with all-day standing than with all-day sitting. So it’s not just about sitting, it’s about being static. We need to move. For sit-stand desks to be effective, users must alternate between sitting and standing, which they generally don’t do, AND regular movement must also be included.

Some Alarming Research

  • Of 17,000 individuals studied over 12 yrs, those who sat most of the day were 54% more likely to die of a heart attack.
  • Two 2010 studies found sitting leads to poor health even in those who exercised and met the minimum daily activity guidelines.
  • In 2011, Australian researchers “correlated every hour of TV watched after age 25 with a 22-minute reduction in life expectancy.”

So what does Bob Patterson recommend?

Suggested Movement Program:

  1. Stand up & *bounce around for a minute every 15 minutes AND
  2. Take a 5 minute walking rest break each hour AND
  3. Take a 10 minute brisk walk at lunch AND
  4. When watching TV, always MOVE during commercials or network breaks.

This may seem impossible, but remember that something is still better than nothing. If all you can do is the 10 minute walk at lunch, do it. But remember, the more often you move, the better. Try walking over to your co-worker instead of shooting them an email, or get up and reheat your coffee. 

*Not sure how to “bounce”? Try going up and down on your toes in standing, marching in place, or doing a few mini squats. If your co-workers laugh at you, show them this article…they may even join you.



Patterson, B. Is Sitting Killing the American Work Force? Orthopaedic Physical Therapy Practice. 2015;27(3):180-182