a saying going around that sitting is the new smoking. It’s
a bit snarky and perhaps a none-too-subtle dig at those of us
who spend a lot of time on our rear ends for work and
pleasure. But Dr. James Levine, who is credited with it, is
dead serious. In fact, he says, sitting could be worse than
do about it? "Get Up!" is the title of Levine’s
new book, a jovial tale of how he came to the scientific
conclusion that our chairs are killing us and what can be done
to stop the threat.
two hours of life for every hour we sit, writes Levine,
director of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University Obesity
Solutions Initiative and inventor of the treadmill desk.
Sitting all day is not natural and to blame for all kinds of
ailments, including obesity, he says.
have created for ourselves a modern way of living that clashes
with the way we’re meant to be," he writes.
obvious answer is to move more, by, for example, taking walks
after meals, something Levine writes that he does after every
one hand, the good news is that this is incredibly easy. The
bad news is this is incredibly difficult," especially for
a computer-centric workforce, Levine said in a telephone
Levine is optimistic that the revolution to overthrow sitting
is at hand. He sees the arrival of dynamic offices, with
walking paths from department to department, active senior
centers and classrooms. And those will lead to healthier and
happier people, he says.
think the revolution is coming. It’s going to happen. The
cool companies, cool executives are not driving BMWs, they’re
on treadmills. My kids won’t be working the way my
colleagues and myself have," he says.
is about hard-core productivity. You will make money if your
workforce gets up and gets moving. Your kids will get better
grades if they get up and get moving," he says. "The
science is not refuted."
not always the case. As he tells it in the book, he was
ridiculed by a number of colleagues when he first began
talking about the dangers of sitting.
science turns on the study of NEAT, or nonexercise activity
thermogenesis, the energy expenditure of activity other than
sports. It includes dancing, going to work, shoveling snow and
taking a walk, Levine writes. So you can imagine a
construction worker uses a lot more NEAT calories than a
computer programmer in the course of a workday.
NEAT is linked to weight gain, diabetes, heart attacks and
cancer," Levine writes.
experiment in which people were overfed by the same amount —
1,000 calories a day — Levine and his colleagues found that
some people had a "powerful NEAT switch" that gets
them moving to use excess energy.
people who do not have a NEAT switch remain sitting in
response to overfeeding and are predisposed to obesity,"
difference was two hours and 15 minutes a day of movement
versus sitting. Levine and his colleagues did other studies
over several years to look at how the brain controls movement
– or lack of movement.
puts the dangers simply: "Sitting is more dangerous than
smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous
than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death."