Tag Archives: sitting disease

Is your chair killing you? Review of Get Up! by Dr. James Levine

Get UpWearing his trademark athletic shoes and a sober business suit, I’ve always thought of Dr. James Levine, brilliant, erstwhile Englishman, as the Mayo Clinic’s own regeneration of Dr. Who.

So when I read that this spry obesity expert characterized himself as an overweight child and fidgety, “mediocre” student, I confess to being shocked.

I was among the lucky few who got a pre-release copy of Levine’s newest book, “Get Up”. It’s the kind of read you will go back to again and again.

Further revelations about his early years include the fact that at the age of 11 “Fluffy”, as his classmates called him, was obsessed with the nocturnal activities of two pet snails and was a source of unrelenting frustration for at least one of his teachers. Life is fickle, but in Levine’s case, devotion to those snails − Joanne and Maurice to be precise − paid off nicely by setting him on a scholarly path which led to a medical degree specializing in Endocrinology and a PhD in Electrical Engineering.

While he shed the image of chubby school boy, Levine never outgrew his interest in movement. His insights into Non-exercise Thermogenesis Activity (NEAT)¹ NEAT has caused a revolution in the way we think about physical activity in general and sitting in particular, and he is the founding force behind the Obesity Solutions² program at the University of Arizona.

“Validated and sustainable school solutions exist for reversing lethal sitting in children. Insist on change.”

Levine holds nothing back in connecting obesity to sedentary behavior. According to him, “The goal of sitting is to give our bodies a break from standing, which is the way human anatomy and physiology is designed.”

Mind you, he points out early in his book that “There is nothing innately harmful about a chair unless you sit on it too much.” It’s just that in these modern times, “we sit for 13 hours a day, sleep for 8 and move for 3. Living all day on our bottoms wrecks our health.” Indeed, we have become painfully aware of what sedentary behavior is doing to our bodies, and the number of “captive” knowledge workers continues to rise: “The number of sedentary jobs has increase 83% since 1950.”

The first time I met Dr. Levine was about five years ago at Ergotron’s headquarters in St. Paul, Minnesota. He had come to demonstrate a digital device that he had developed to help people track their activity levels. At that time, Ergotron’s standing student desk, LearnFit™, was in the early stages of development and I was interested in knowing if the Mayo was involved in any research on sedentary behavior among children.


Dr. Levine at the 3rd Annual JustStand Summit

From that first conversation evolved a collaborative relationship between Levine and Ergotron that continues to this day. After conducting a pilot study with children at the Nay Ah Shing elementary school in Onamia, Minnesota, Levine’s co-investigators are poised to begin a study using Ergotron mobile standing LearnFit desks in classrooms located in Florida and Arizona.

As Levine notes in the book, “Today a third of US youth are overweight or have obesity; that’s 23 million kids. Since 1980, obesity rates in children have tripled. Children are now developing adult diseases while in school: diabetes, fatty liver disease, hypertension and even cardiovascular disease…a teenager with obesity has an 80 percent chance of carrying the excess weight into adulthood.”

Increasingly, childhood development experts all over the world are acknowledging that traditional static classroom desks actually inhibit learning. So maybe it was to be expected that after spending the last 25 years in his non-exercise activity (NEAT) laboratory operating an anti-chair movement, and investigating “the harms sitting does to both body and mind.” Levine would get a call from the White House with a question: “If sitting is so bad for workers and NEAT active work has so many benefits for employee health and productivity, surely this must be the case for children.”

Anyone who knows Dr. Levine, or has read his former book, “Move A Little, Lose A Lot” can guess what happened next.


He got busy soliciting the opinions of a hundred educators about the possibility of an active classroom. He reports, “It was clear that teachers were passionately seeking health solutions for their students.” But with funding shortfalls and state and federal test reporting making high demands on their time, there were no resources, time or know-how as to how to decrease chair time and encourage NEAT in the classroom.

Still, Levine recognized that another crucial perspective was needed; what would students themselves say about how a classroom should function? He sought out the answer and ultimately, the vision of a school-of-the-future designed for and by students with input from their instructors came true in Rochester, Minnesota, thanks in part to Levine’s knowledge and leadership.

From his early years tracking the progress of snails sliding across aquarium glass Dr. Levine has applied intellectual curiosity and boundless energy to the study of physical activity. He continues to “walk the talk” with community engagement activities, scientific investigations and strategic alliances that link thought-leaders from around the world. His work with NEAT has been a source of inspiration to us at Ergotron in the fight against sitting disease and I recommend his new book, Get Up! to everyone who is concerned about the quality of their lives along with the quantity of good years they have to come!

Dr. Levine was recently featured in ErgoExpo’s August Wednesday Webinar.  Visit here for the On-Demand session of the “Get Up – Your Life Might Be Depending On It” event or visit Juststand.org/getup for other resources from Dr. Levine’s book.

By Carrie Schmitz, Sr. Manager of Ergonomic & Wellness Research at Ergotron (@giveafig) CarrieSchmitz






¹ Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise.

² Based on a comprehensive partnership between Mayo Clinic and Arizona State University, ObesitySolutions is a global effort to build, test and share ideas that work for real people in the real world.

How one woman stood up for a month…and dropped a dress size

Photo credit DailyMail.co.uk

Ergotron has been spearheading the sit-stand movement for several years. It has been an interesting ride watching as public perception has shifted from ‘sitting is a disease?’ to this story from the DailyMail.co.uk.

Health writer Louise Atkinson explains in her article, I stood up for a month – and dropped a dress size! As experts say sitting down is more unhealthy than smoking, LOUISE ATKINSON set herself an extraordinary challenge…,” that one day she decided to stand more for one month, wondering “what it’s really like to actually heed the warnings and spend all day, every day, standing up.”

She took a look at both her personal and professional life to see where she could add in more vertical time. She had some rules for her four weeks too:

  • Stand when working
  • Stand to eat (whether alone or with the family),
  • Stand when watching TV
  • Stand more when spending time with the family or meeting up with friends
  • And sit minimally, as she says, “when driving, or when nature calls — and lie down only to sleep.”

For the work part she is using an Ergotron WorkFit-A for Apple Sit-Stand Workstation, shown in the picture above. For the rest of her strategies and fascinating personal results, read on!

Access to sit-stand computing is just one part of the reducing sedentary time puzzle. What are some strategies you employ to break up the rest of your day?


Q & A with Dr. James A. Levine

jameslevineIn advance of his book launch, Get Up! Why Your Chair Is Killing You & What You Can Do About It,”  Dr. James A. Levine participated in this Q & A with his publisher Palgrave Macmillan.

The following will give you a glimpse at his passion and commitment to uncovering “why and how people move” and the impact it has on our bodies.

You have done some much research in this area and published so many papers. Why did you want to write this book?

Dr. Levine: I have spent 40 years, ever since I was child, on a mission to understand how—and why people move. I never expected to discover that that everyday sitting—what we all experience—is so harmful to the body and mind alike. I wrote this book to explain the science, scientists, joy of discovery, and the challenges of using science to reverse the ill-fates of seat-sentenced humanity.

Your book features many quizzes on how much we are sitting, how far our bodies have evolved, etc. Where do you rate on your quizzes, and were you happy with your own results?

Dr. Levine: A key component of Get Up! is to engage people’s minds in finding their path forwards, and a quiz engages the mind!  As the writer, I too became engaged. The quiz about car seat addiction was written the night I drove 100 miles in my car between meetings. I realized there was a better way – and yes, I changed how my meetings are scheduled.

If you HAD to pick a chair to sit in, what is the best, most healthy kind of chair? (if it exists!)

Dr. Levine: The best kind of chair is the one you use to take a break between activities!

Why is it so hard for people struggling with obesity to decrease their sitting time by just over 2 hours, as you recommend to your patients?

Dr. Levine: We have created a world where sitting is implicit in almost every everyday activity: work, leisure, dating and shopping. Once a sitter becomes accustomed to sitting, finding sustainable leg-based solutions is complex. For a person, the tactics might involve converting a desk based job to a leg based one; converting sofa-based partner time to active intimacy and switch for a car commuter to a leg-based calorie burning alternative.

How do you see advancing technologies helping and hurting our society’s sitting problem?

Dr. Levine: We foresee a world of dynamic and moving people free from the chairman’s curse.  The alternate is unimaginable—a world in which all children are prescribed a polypill in order to mitigate the harm of sitting disease.

What is the ideal speed for working on a treadmill desk, and why?

Dr. Levine: The most ideal speed  for working on a treadmill desk is 1.1 mph—it is the natural speed at which humans move throughout the day, so it will be the most comfortable without becoming too distracting.

What is your ideal office environment of the future?

Dr. Levine: Happy, dynamic, productive, creative and healthy—where chairs are only used to take a break!

The news is full of articles about why sitting is bad for us, but there is good science behind the claim that sitting is the new smoking. Carrie Schmitz, research manager at Ergotron, concurs. “Dr. Levine’s book does a great job explaining why all of us should be concerned about the sedentary lifestyle, but more important, he provides proven guidelines for avoiding obesity-related diseases like diabetes and cancer.”

You can hear Dr. Levine speak more about this topic during the upcoming ErgoExpo™ Wednesday Webinar, August 13, 2014, or take his Chair Quiz at Juststand.org/getup. Dr. Levine’s book is now available everywhere books are sold.

[Webinar] ErgoExpo is hosting Dr. James Levine

Ergotron is sponsoring ErgoExpo’s August Wednesday Webinar: “Get Up: Your Life Might Depend Upon It” featuring James A. Levine, MD, Ph.D on August 13 at 1 pm CT/11 am PT. jameslevineIn today’s chair-based world, sitting has become the new smoking. Dr. Levine argues that the main problem is the way our modern world forces us to sit in nearly every aspect of our lives. Drawing on decades of research conducted in his Mayo Clinic lab, Dr. Levine will reveal the effects sitting has on our bodies and minds and more. Visit the ErgoExpo website to learn more, or…




Tweet along with us using the hashtags #getup and #juststand the day of the event. There will be time to ask Dr. Levine questions at the end so be sure to take advantage of this rare opportunity!

Get Up! by Dr James A LevineDr. Levine’s book, “Get up! Your Chair Is Killing You & What You Can Do About It” is launching today, available everywhere books are sold. Visit http://juststand.org/getup to learn more.

Custom sit-stand for the office – don’t fight design, join it

This is a familiar scenario we hear around the ‘Tron: I love the idea of my employees standing more, but we just integrated this new office design with custom worksurfaces…

It’s hard to argue with design at times. Especially when considering the tremendous number of hours spent on deliberating, designing and implementing these work environments to capture the spirit and the culture of the brand it is supporting.

If you can’t fight design, why not join it?

That’s the impetus behind the WorkFit-B Sit-Stand Base. Simply attach your custom worksurface to the WorkFit base of choice (light duty and heavy duty options available), and bingo-presto your employees have attractive, brand supporting sit-stand comfort.

Building the WFB Desk

Whoa. That’s an odd phrase. Brand supporting sit-stand comfort. But culture is important, right? Not only to attract top talent but to keep them healthy and productive while they are there. If you’ve taken the trouble to create a talent attracting environment, why not take the next step?

Sit-stand computing is more than a hot trend. (Although sure, I’d love this to be a “computer on every sit-stand desk” kind of revolution!)

Truthfully, a lot more people than I have discovered that standing more makes them feel better. Smarter people than I have the science to prove it. And now we can help you prove for yourself that your staff will feel (and look good) while standing more.

A few things to know about the WorkFit-B: 

  • Capacity LD: ≤ 60 lbs (27.2 kg);  HD: ≤ 88 lbs (40 kg)
  • Lift: LD: 19″ (50 cm); HD: 20″ (51 cm)
  • Integrated brake secures table in place, with easy release for instantaneous, tool-free, non-motorized re-positioning with Ergotron’s Constant Force (CF) motion technology
  • Assumes worksurface thickness of .87″ (2.2 cm)
  • Four leveling glides establish a firm footing and adjust to install the unit on uneven floors

One thing to keep in mind, the listed weight capacity represents total load applied to height-adjustment platform. So for best results, when calculating load include weight of worksurface, accessory mounts for keyboard and display(s), and any computer hardware being placed on worksurface (less of an issue with quilt squares or scrapbook pages for the home crafter!).

Ergonomic considerations: 

No matter how you choose to use it, don’t miss out on proper ergonomics when considering a custom sit-stand option like this. Here are a few ideas to keep it healthy and to keep it safe:

  • Use the Workspace Planner tool to help calculate the proper worksurface measurements for sitting and standing postures
  • Consider adjustable monitor or laptop arms to ensure proper screen to eye ratios, especially if the keyboard will be placed on the worksurface
  • Integrate an under-desk keyboard option like Ergotron’s Neo-Flex® Underdesk Keyboard Arm (97-582-009) if keying off the worksurface is less than ideal
  • Change postures frequently! Standing too long, just like sitting too long, can cause problems…the key is to find the right balance of sitting and standing for you

How creative do you want to be?

I’ve had some fun thinking of different surfaces to add to this base. I have a new craft room at home and plenty of spare parts squirreled away, like that old wooden door in the garage rafters, or a thick slice of plexi in the storage room. If you have any funky ideas, please send them along.

Sit-stand can go beyond the primary computing space, don’t forget:

  • Makeover the visitor table in your office to a sit-stand hot spot
  • Swap over some of the tables in the cafeteria for the stand-and-graze types on your team
  • Shake things up in your conference or training rooms with sit-stand options for happier, and healthier sessions

This product lets you keep style and function as a work team, instead of opponents. In fact, a true marriage of interior design and sit-stand is possible, when sit-stand is included in the project scope early on and the designer is tasked with making it crazy-cool. A brand feast if you will, for the body and senses. An ultimate win-win for everyone involved.

Go now, get creative.

Michelle Judd
Sr. Marketing Manager, Global Communications


Own your space, own your life

UoChesterStudyHow big is your office? Is it a tiny cubical or a part of an open plan benching system? Do you have a dedicated desk or plop into any available chair? Are you working from the comfort of home or are you alone in a corner office with a million-dollar view?

Whatever your office size or configuration, the area within your control is actually quite small.  Full-time workers spend forty percent of their waking hours sitting within a space no larger than their own height. For the average person, if they spread their arms out to their side at shoulder height, that measurement would be about five and a half feet in diameter from fingertip to fingertip (nails not included).

If those numbers seem bleak, don’t despair. There is a way to make the most of every inch and every minute while you are at work. Just stand–with a sit-stand workstation.

Sure, the media has been full of reports about standing desks, sedentary behavior, and how regular exercise alone isn’t enough to keep us healthy; but a lot of people, employees and employers alike, seem to be missing the point. Not because they’re immune to the health risks of prolonged siting, but because they are reacting to assumptions that side-track them from the truth that they have become accustomed to an unnatural way of working and indeed, living.

Some comment that standing at a desk is nothing new; some bristle at having “one more thing to worry about,” while others delight in pointing out that standing too long is just as bad as sitting too long.

Well, yes.

But what’s that got to do with you?

Given everything that you know about how it feels to be stuck at a computer for hours on end, why wouldn’t you consider standing? Especially in light of an episode called “Trust Me, I’m a Doctor” which aired last Thursday, October 17 on BBC Two television in the UK. The study, conducted by Dr. John Buckley at the University of Chester was built upon previous findings indicating that:

  1. Prolonged sitting causes damage to joints which can lead to inflammation, stress and chronic pain
  2. Prolonged sitting can lead to cardio-metabolic disease
  3. Sit-stand computer workstations have been proven by scientific research to be both feasible and effective at reducing sitting time in a work setting.

The BBC/University of Chester researchers found that both heart rate and energy expenditure were raised significantly by standing work. They speculate that over the course of a year’s work, if workers stood for three to four hours per day doing desk work, it would equate to an additional energy expenditure of 25,000 kcal (about 7lbs or 3 kg of human fat)!

Subjective evaluations found that 8 of 10 workers were very willing to stand doing work as long as they could have breaks and do some work sitting.

No least of all, the UK researchers stated that the simple act of performing desk work, while standing for greater than three hours after lunch, helps to lower blood glucose more quickly back down to normal levels.

The research is in…standing at the computer is both feasible healthier than sitting on its own. And the ability to modify your work surface height, depending on how you feel and the type of task you are doing gives you “decision latitude,” which in itself, is known to improve attitude and consequently, productivity.

Your office may be large or small, near to home or far away. With a sit-stand workstation, it doesn’t matter because you’re in charge. Own your work space. Own your life!

CarrieSchmitzCarrie Schmitz
Ergonomics & Wellness Research Manager @ Ergotron




Additional reading:

Study uncovers the science underlying sit-stand workstation use

In February 2012, Ergotron participated in a scientific study with the University of Minnesota (School of Public Health) and the Mayo Clinic called, “The Effect of Sit-Stand Workstations on Physical Activity in Sedentary Office Workers: A Randomized Crossover Trial.”

pants01-lrWhen we first blogged about it in, “What’s the skinny on sit-stand desks? (Hint, it has to do with magic underwear),” the study was just about to begin. Emphasis was on increasing the understanding of how prolonged sitting can lead to such serious issues as diabetes, cancer and cardio-vascular disease.

“The primary purpose of our research is to establish whether the use of sit-stand desks to reduce sitting time was both feasible and effective,” said Carrie Schmitz, Sr. Manager Ergonomic Research at Ergotron and coauthor of the study.

So where does the “magic underwear” fit into that? Explains Schmitz, “Each participant wore a posture measurement device designed by Dr. James Levine and his researchers at the Mayo clinic. Essentially these were bike pants fitted with accelerometers and worn beneath normal clothing that told us whether participants were sitting, standing or walking.”

A formal announcement of the study occurred last May in Chicago when lead researcher Nirjhar Dutta presented the study findings at the American Diabetes Association 73rd Scientific Sessions.

Based on the data gathered in 2012, the feasibility aspect of the study hypothesis was proven because it was demonstrated that participants preferred their new sit-stand work style to their former seated-only habits.

According to Nirjhar Dutta, “The sit-stand workstations were highly popular with over 96% of the subjects enjoying their use.” (Update: The 96% figure turned out to be misleading, because at the 12 month follow-up in 2013, one subject who had initially passed on keeping the sit-stand workstation ultimately returned to it.)

Regarding efficacy, the second part of the study hypothesis, the data showed that the intervention (sit-stand workstations), “significantly increased activity during work hours.” In short, the study was a success and will take its place as an important informer of future, larger studies, like the “Stand-up Australia” and “Stand & Move” studies currently in progress.

Ergotron WorkFit™ sit-stand workstations were chosen as the intervention because they enable office workers to move from a sitting to standing posture (postural rotation) and back again effortlessly. Desks that feature hand-cranking adjustment were ruled out of consideration due to concern that the repeated cranking motion required could itself be a cause of repetitive stress and motor-operated, a lengthy process which likely prohibits mobility, rather than fosters it and burns natural energy resources instead of calories.

Why the distinction? There’s plenty of science indicating that increased activity is vital for a healthy work style, especially these days when technology has taken so many physical tasks out of our hands.

Testament to the importance and timeliness of Ergotron’s continued focus on sit-stand postural rotation research activities is the American Medical Association’s (AMA) recent announcement about adopting a policy on sitting in the workplace: AMA Adopts New Policies on Second Day of Voting at Annual Meeting.

According to AMA board member Patrice Harris, MD, “Prolonged sitting, particularly in work settings, can cause health problems, and encouraging work places to offer employees alternatives to sitting all day will help to create a healthier workforce.”­

Overall, a sit-stand desk appears to be a promising tool to reduce sedentary time at work. Given the proportion of hours spent at work, sit-stand desks may contribute to decreasing sedentary time and improving the health of sedentary office workers.

“Utilizing a product that can improve one’s work experience without negatively impacting health or productivity is paramount,” says Schmitz. “Ergotron’s WorkFit line represents results-driven product design, as evidenced by one of the key findings of the research, that the intervention increased overall sense of well-being, decreased fatigue, and surprisingly, reduced appetite.”

Research like this is helping businesses define how to accomplish the AMA directives. We’ll share more information when the study is formally published. Until then, you will find more sit-stand research and news at Research.juststand.org.

For more information, resources and tools to make your computer experience less damaging and more rewarding, visit us at Computingcomfort.org and Juststand.org.

[video] New WorKFit workstations designed for Apple users

Watch a day in the work life of an Apple® user to see a new perspective on healthier computing. The new WorkFit-A and WorkFit-P Sit-Stand Workstations – for Apple, are designed for the unique needs of Mac computer and Laptop users. Standing more never looked so good.

The Summit is back…5 reasons to look forward to it

Corporate leaders share best practices at summitThe recent announcement by the American Medical Association (AMA), cited “Health Risks of Sitting” (and “Recognizing Obesity as a Disease”) among the new policies they voted to adopt during their annual meeting. At Ergotron, this is a huge milestone in our 3-year long charter to reduce sitting time and the health risks linked to it.

Does knowing this now concern you about the amount of sitting you do in your day? Do you know what YOUR risk is for “Sitting Disease”? Or what you can do to reduce this risk AND encourage employers/employees to do the same?

Sounds like it’s time to check out Ergotron’s 3rd Annual JustStand™ Wellness Summit, July 17 at the McNamara Alumni Center (University of Minnesota campus), Minneapolis, MN. 

This complimentary event gives you a unique opportunity to rub elbows with the top researchers and organizations in the world who have explored alternatives to reducing sitting time, and other “out-of-the-box” approaches to producing healthier, more active, more productive individuals!

So what will YOU get by joining us? Here’s the short list:

1. Be in on the leading edge of global research. When you get minds from the University of Queensland (Australia), Stanford University, the Mayo Clinic, the University of Minnesota and Humantech in a room together, expect something ground-breaking. From to up-to-the-minute research to practical applications, hear about the global initiatives that are shaping the news.

2. Hear from the businesses who are blazing the trail. Organizations like Oberon (a brand of Sálo LLC), the Blue Zones, Rodale, Inc., American Council on Exercise (ACE) and David Martin Consulting Group are pioneers in creating healthier cultures for employees and the businesses they serve. Hear about their challenges and successes, and gain insight into how you might bring that knowledge back to your organization.

3. Network with other industry professionals. Get real-world advice from others facing the same challenges you are. Attendees include human resources, health and wellness, employee relations, compensation and benefits, occupational health, organizational development, facilities and organization development professionals from multiple industries–in both public and private sectors.

4. See and experience the solutions designed to help people reduce sedentary time.  Come see the full-line of WorkFit sit-stand workstation add-ons, desks, and carts for any business environment to evaluate sit-stand computing firsthand.

5. Become a catalyst for change in your environments. It just takes one person to see the vision for a healthier, more productive workplace. Come get all the tools you need to spark a sit-stand Uprising in your business or community. Education is the first step to creating a culture of movement and that’s why we created Juststand.org as a resource and launch pad.

As a bonus! National fitness expert Chris Freytag with tips on fitting fitness into your day, and new this year, exhibitors like the American Heart AssociationAmerican Diabetes Association, and SmartMove, Inc. will be on-site providing additional education on influencing health.

Convinced? We hope so. REGISTRATION is easy but if you have questions, contact us at info@juststand.org.


The Management Challenge Presented by the “Sitting Disease”

by Pete Segar, President, Ergotron Branded Products 

A challenge every manager should consider: The  responsibility to deliver a safe working environment to our employees. 

Up until recently, the standard approach has been to provide computer equipment, and later upgrade with custom ergonomic devices as employees develop problems. Often times, even requiring a doctor’s note to justify the expense. 

But today, with strong evidence that the computing environment itself leads to extended sedentary periods that are damaging to employee health, it is no longer responsible to provide static seated office computing stations to our employees. 

It is our responsibility to provide a safe working environment to all of our workers, and the ability to move fluidly from sitting to standing to help prevent the health impact of overly sedentary behavior during the work day.  The question is no longer whether we need to provide sit to stand workstations, but simply HOW to quickly to deliver them.

Ergotron’s new online WorkFit Finder Tool helps make this decision easy for prospective users looking  to upgrade their computing workstation to sit-stand.

Has your company accepted the challenge?