Standing up is the new sitting down at your job

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Marc Hamilton
Researcher on Inactivity Physiology, Pennington Biomedical Research C
Monday, October 18, 2010; 2:00 PM

In academic papers with titles such as, "Your Chair: Comfortable but Deadly," physicians point to surprising new research showing higher rates of diabetes, obesity, heart disease and even mortality among people who sit for long stretches. A study earlier this year in the American Journal of Epidemiology showed that among 123,000 adults followed over 14 years, those who sat more than six hours a day were at least 18 percent more likely to die than those who sat less than three hours a day.

"Sitting is hazardous. It's dangerous. We are on the cusp of a major revolution about what we think of as healthy behavior in the workplace," said Marc Hamilton, a leading researcher on inactivity physiology at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana. He calls sitting "the new smoking."

Hamilton was online Monday, Oct. 18, at 2 p.m. ET to discuss the findings and what it means to desk job holders.

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Anonymous: I worked for a firm which offered gym services. During lunch I'd jog, then shower and back to the grind.

Another advantage was that we didn't have to punch a clock. As long as we met the clients' requirements, taking even a couple hours for lunch was no big deal.

So the management style was low-stress. Along those lines, did the study include data elements where mgmt temperament could be determined?

Marc Hamilton: I like your point. Not aware of any data regarding management attitudes. There certainly are many companies wanting to provide a healthy environment. Some places like the traditional school house punished children for too much movement, but for other reasons obviously.

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Ontario, Oregon: What do you think of the Ball Chairs on the market that help workers maintain trunk, leg and back strength while seated on a therapy ball when spending long hours at a work station?

Marc Hamilton: If they work for some people, great. I am not sure they do all that much for strength unless exercise is involved.

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Baltimore, Md.: I sit at a desk all day but try to walk around the office as much as possible. Any other pointers for how we can beat the sitting bulge?

Marc Hamilton: Not sure what the sitting bulge is, but if you start to think of opportunities for intermittent physical activity, even if low intensity, as a healthy option to sitting idle for prolonged periods then you are on the right road.

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Arlington, Va.: It is clear to me that sitting has had a negative effect on my health because of back problems. However, standing also causes back stiffness. What is a worker to do? I have tried to work out my own ergonomic solutions, but I wish more companies would put the effort into making sure their employees' desk setups are healthy. They are paying for the chiropractor and doctor visits, so why not pay up front, once, and make sure workers are sitting -- or standing -- safely?

Marc Hamilton: You make a fair point. There are options.

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washingtonpost.com: Programming Note: We are sorry that this chat has ended early due to an unforeseen development with our guest. We are efforting another day and time for it. Please consult the Live Q&As schedule. Thank you.

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