TreeHugger has been saying for years that sitting on your butt all day will kill you, but now there is fresh evidence: A meta-analysis of 47 other studies has finds a serious correlation between sitting and dying. And going to the gym for half an hour before sitting all day won't help much; the study, Sedentary Time and Its Association With Risk for Disease Incidence, Mortality, and Hospitalization in Adults concludes: "Prolonged sedentary time was independently associated with deleterious health outcomes regardless of physical activity."
The numbers are significant; being sedentary likely means a 15% to 20% higher risk of death from heart disease or cancer and as much as 90% risk of diabetes.
Dr. David Alter (no relation to the author) tells the Globe and Mail:
Our study finds that despite the health-enhancing benefits of physical activity, this alone may not be enough to reduce the risk for disease....Avoiding sedentary time and getting regular exercise are both important for improving your health and survival,” said Alter. But engaging in 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous daily exercise does not mean it’s okay to then “sit on your rear” for the rest of the day.
Alter doesn't appear to mention the use of standing desk (the study is behind a paywall and I have not read anything but the abstract) but does recommend that you get up and move for a few minutes out of every 30 minutes you are awake. His advice:
The bottom line is what we’re really trying to do is train people to be aware of getting up and getting walking. And once they’re on the track of ‘I’ve got to get up, I’ve got to move around,’ the rest does follow. People take stairs as opposed to taking elevators. It’s about breaking the mould of our culture, which has had us going from hunters and gatherers to sitting all the time.
Good advice, and not dissimilar from that of Robert Propst, inventor of Herman Miller's appropriately named Action Office, writing in 1968:
The most serious health problem in offices is its sedentary nature. Compelled by lack of choice, we are force to conduct most office activity in a sitting position. The result, as medical studies and insurance data make clear is a steady decline in vitality, energy and general body tone... Man's physical machine has evolved to do many things well but no single thing continuously. [designed properly,] the office can be a kinetic, active, alert, vigorous environment.
Forty-seven years later, the evidence is still coming in and proving him right. And because the study originates at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto, we offer as an anthem for the movement, from Toronto's own Parachute Club: Rise Up.