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Get Up, Stand Up: A Brief History of Sedentarism and Why Movement is Good Medicine
Journal of Evolution and Health (2016)
  • Tony Federico
Chairs first emerged as a way for high-status individuals to designate their social standing, and their use was almost exclusively the domain of the affluent class until the Industrial Revolution made affordable, mass-produced seating possible. Prior to this point, the vast majority of people sat on improvised objects such as beds, tree stumps, or benches, or simply squatted on their haunches. Social aspirations, continued technological innovations (e.g. the automobile), and a shift towards sedentary work drove the adoption of the chair until its use became ubiquitous at home, at work, at school, and at play (e.g. computer and video games).

The average American now spends more than 10 hours a day seated, but excessive sitting is not without consequence. There is a growing body of scientific research that suggests that spending too much time seated is a contributing factor in the development of obesity, cardiovascular disease, orthopedic issues, and even cancer. In other words, chairs, and the sedentary behavior their presence promotes, represents an evolutionary mismatch similar to that of fast food. Short activity bouts (i.e. movement breaks) are an effective countermeasure to prolonged sitting and an effective way to reduce the risk of chronic disease.

Learning objectives:
Upon completion of the session, participants will be able to:
List the mechanisms by which prolonged periods of sedentary behavior contribute to physical degeneration and disease.
Describe the connection between modern labor saving technologies and the incidence of common health problems (e.g. lower back pain).
Understand the potential benefits of incorporating movement breaks into one's daily routine (e.g. increased bone density).
  • Back Pain,
  • Ergonomics,
  • Sedentary,
  • Obesity,
  • Posture
Publication Date
Winter November 1, 2016
Citation Information
Tony Federico. "Get Up, Stand Up: A Brief History of Sedentarism and Why Movement is Good Medicine" Journal of Evolution and Health (2016)
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Creative Commons license
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons CC_BY-NC International License.