The Sitting Paradox

Marvelous March

March 2nd marks:

  • Old Stuff Day
  • Read Across America Day
  • Texas declared its independence from Mexico in 1836
  • The film King Kong opens at New York’s Radio City Music Hall in 1933
  • The first automatic street light is installed in New Milford, Connecticut in 1949
  • Wilt Chamberlain of the Philadelphia Warriors scores 100 points in a basketball game in 1962
  • Compact discs and players are released for the first time in the United States and other markets in 1983 (previously available only in Japan)

The birthday of:

  • 1779- Joel Roberts Poinsett in 1779 (American Ambassador to Mexico brought Poinsettias to America)
  • 1904 – Theodore Seuss Geisel, “Dr. Seuss”
  • 1917- Desi Arnaz- “Ricky Ricardo” on “I Love Lucy”
  • 1931- Mikhail Gorbachev, Leader of USSR
  • 1962- Jon Bon Jovi, singer, actor

Ok, on to sitting…

What a great thing: sitting down. Oh wait…

What a terrible thing: sitting down.

The Sitting Paradox 

Sitting has become this generation’s tobacco. It is now being considered one of the worst things we can do for our bodies and health advocates are almost in complete agreement: sitting can kill.

How can something that feels so good, is so convenient and natural, be as bad for us as something like tobacco?

Is it possible that it’s really that bad? Well, as usual, it depends.

Sitting itself isn’t that bad. Sitting all day is probably pretty bad. Sitting on the floor is probably good for us. Sitting in a car on the way to work, in a desk chair for 4 hours, in a car on the way to lunch, in a restaurant booth, back in a car to work, another 4 hours at a desk, followed by a seated commute home, sitting in a chair for dinner and then on a couch for a couple more hours before lying in bed all night = not so good. Repeat day after day after month after year = the problem.

The actual act of sitting is fine. We should sit whenever we want and should be capable of sitting in all different positions and circumstances. Even sitting in a chair with bad posture isn’t itself that bad. Doing it for extended periods of time and all throughout life is when it becomes problematic.

Doing anything all day will cause problems. Standing all day is problematic. Walking all day, although less problematic, still carries some downside. The problem lies in the volume and way we sit. The body adapts to what we do. If you sit down a lot, your body will get very good at sitting down which is fine until we ask it to do anything else. Then we have a problem.

We can’t escape sitting nor should we obsess over never sitting down. We need to think about doing it smartly. Sitting less and moving more is good for you, I’m not going to argue that. I am suggesting that since most of us are going to be sitting quite a bit, we do it better.

Active Sitting

To me, the key is to be an active sitter. This means doing 3 things. Get up often, change positions often and fidget.

Get Up Often

If you have to sit down all day then get up as often as you can. It’s better to sit down for 8 hours but get up 10 times than to sit for 4 hours without moving at all. It doesn’t matter what you do when you get up, just get up. The more active you can be during the breaks the better (walking, stretching, exercise) but the important thing is breaking up the sitting as often as you can. At least once an hour if not every 20-30 minutes.

Change Sitting Style & Positions

Use as much variety as you can get away with or imagine. Stand, sit, kneel, sit on a bench or even sit on the floor. Kneel on one knee, turn your knees to the side, sit crosslegged, sit on a ball, sit back in a chair, sit forward in a chair or use different chairs. Just keep switching it up, either throughout the day or from day to day.


Fidgeting is a good thing. The more you move in your seat the better. Ever notice a kid who has to sit for a while? Their body needs to move. So does yours. The more you move your body around the better. Flex your butt. Rock and roll your hips. Tap your feet. Swivel back and forth. Do anything to prevent long times of rigidness.

Sitting less is likely a good thing but for all of us out there who have to sit regularly and for long periods of time, be smart about it. Get up often, sit different ways and move your body around while you sit.

The key is change. Sitting won’t kill if you don’t sit like a corpse.

Thanks for reading, have a great day!



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