Sitting Is Bad for You: Now What Do You Do?

Posted March 20, 2013 by Sara Hauber in Life After Five
Sitting on a stability ball at your desk at work

What is that stability ball doing at work?

By this point, I thought the news that sitting was bad for your health was old, old, old. Everyone I know, at some point in the last few years, has posted a Photoshopped photo stating that “Sitting Is the New Smoking.” So I figured by now, everyone had to own a standing work desk, use a treadmill desk at work, or had just up and quit their day job to become a nomad and make a living wandering the earth on foot.

But alas, Wired magazine, one of my faves, has devoted yet another piece to the ill effects of sitting! This is the famed mag’s third installment, following a January 2011 piece by GeekDad that highlighted research in the Journal of the American College of Cardiologists detailing the health risks of sitting too much, and a much more thorough May 2012 article explaining the physiological ill effects of sitting and going into WAY too much detail about different standing desks on the market.

Now, this past month, Wired’s third feature on the dangers of sitting actually starts to impart not just the physical problems associated with desk-jockeying and overall screen time, but it finally touches on the effects long-term sitting has on our brains—and thus, our ability to work effectively. Quoted in this most recent piece is a business writer, Nilofer Merchant, whom I had not previously heard of, but who has now inspired a thorough Internet search for further bits of wisdom. Her key recommendation for improving upon the standard “sit around an oblong table and try to stay awake while pretending to be interested” business meeting is to hold “walk and talk” meetings because “fresh air drives fresh thinking.”

And this, Career Girls, is exactly what I would like to recommend you do. Not only are you killing two birds with one stone by holding a meeting while actually getting some exercise, it’s absolutely true that exercise/movement improves blood flow to the brain, and blood flow means more brain-cell activity (thus the “fresh thinking” Merchant talks about).

When coaching people to discover their fitness and wellness goals, I often recommend they take a walk so their head gets clear and they can really focus in on their goals. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been on one of my frequent long walks or bike rides and great ideas have just bombarded me, or massive problems were solved. It got to the point last year where I wouldn’t go for a walk or a bike ride without some type of recording device attached to my arm!

If you do begin to engage in “walk and talk” meetings at work, I highly recommend using a smart-phone app to record your meeting, since taking notes is pretty much impossible.

Now, what about you Career Girls who, like me, are stuck in nasty weather about half the year? My personal solution, and a much better-for-you option than the standing desk (in my functional-movement-obsessed perspective) is to use a stability ball for a chair at your desk. These exercise balls, when fitted correctly to your body, are the perfect tool for keeping your metabolism active, your brain engaged, and your mood better than it would be if you sat in a chair at work.

Trust me, nothing gets you happy at work faster than bouncing on a big ball!

And there’s no reason you and your colleagues can’t engage in serious meetings while sitting on stability balls. Just bouncing up and down a minute or two before you begin to brainstorm will make your meetings not only more fun, but more productive.

If you’re interested in learning how to size and use a stability ball for your desk, comment here. I’ll give you the goods.

Now, put on those walking shoes—it’s time for your next meeting!

About the Author

Sara Hauber

Sara Hauber, M.A., is a certified wellness coach, yoga teacher, and functional-fitness specialist whose mission is to help you overcome obstacles to achieve radiant health and vitality. Since undergoing complete spinal fusion for scoliosis, Sara has been empowering others to transform their bodies, eliminate pain, and embrace joy, love, and life. In 2012 she introduced The Hauber Method™, her signature at-home method for eliminating back pain:



    I’m interested in knowing how to size and use a stability ball at work! I look forward to hearing from you!


      Zoey and Demae,
      I’m so glad you’re up for trying the best “chair” ever at work! The most important thing to consider when sizing your ball is that when you sit on it, with both feet flat on the floor, your knees end up at a 90-degree angle–meaning, your hips and your knees are at the same plane, rather than having one joint higher than the other.

      Typically, people over 5’9″ would choose a 65-cm ball, and those shorter than 5’8″ would try a 55-cm ball. But I have found that all ball manufacturers use different material, and some blow up “better” than others. You want one that blows up really firm, so that there is little give to the ball when it’s full. I use a Tone Fitness ball that I got at Marshall’s, and it blows up very firm. I’m 5’10” and use a fully-inflated 65-cm ball as my chair.

      Now, the height of your desk is another concern. What kind of desk do you have, and is it adjustable at all? When you try the right-size ball, does it still allow you to pull yourself up close to your workspace, with room for your knees under the desk?

      Let me know some more details and we’ll get you set up right!


    I am also interested in knowing how to size and use a stability ball at work. Thank you,


    Thanks Sara! My desk is not adjustable. I am only 5’1 so I would go for the55-cm ball. I’ll have to measure the height of my desk the next time I’m at work. I think it’s a pretty standard size though.


      The bottom of my desk is approximately 28″ from the floor if that helps with sizing.


        Hi Zoey,
        That probably means that your ball (55cm is correct) will fit well and provide you the correct height for your knees to be 90 degrees, but it might be a tight squeeze for your knees *under* the desk itself. Have you tried it yet?


    The bottom of my desk is approximately 28″ from the floor if that helps with sizing.

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