Workplace war: Is it smart to stand?

Former MPR News icon Dan Olson, shown in 2010 being smarter than most of us in the cubicle farm. It’s the workplace war in the cubicle farm that never ends: the sitters vs. the standers.

Today, the New York Times gives the standers new ammunition, citing a UCLA study this week that suggests the more you sit, the thicker you get in the brain.

The researchers asked a group of 35 healthy people, ages 45 to 70, about their activity levels and the average number of hours each day spent sitting and then scanned their brains with MRI. They found that the thickness of their medial temporal lobe was inversely correlated with how sedentary they were; the subjects who reported sitting for longer periods of time had the thinnest medial temporal lobes.

The implication is that the more time you spend in a chair the worse it is for your brain health, resulting in possible impairment in learning and memory.

Of course there is also this sentence, which seems like a pretty big deal, too:

Of course, the study cannot prove that this link is causal. It’s possible that people with pre-existing cognitive problems might just be more sedentary.

But the screeners had removed people with major medical and psychiatric disorders.

The study also found that exercise will not erase the effects of being sedentary at other times of the day.

Richard A. Friedman, a professor of clinical psychiatry and the director of the psychopharmacology clinic at the Weill Cornell Medical College, concludes that everyone should be standing at work if they want better brain function.

Here’s the problem we face in the farm: A study just last fall claimed that people who primarily stand on the job are twice as likely as people who primarily sit on the job to have a heart attack or congestive heart failure.

And so we are left to decide whether we want to be smarter and die with a heart attack sooner. Or live longer and have less brain function.