Scared Sitless Book Review

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Scared Sitless Book Review

Review Summary

With practical tips and a down-to-earth approach to office fitness, Larry Swanson offers readers a variety of habits to engender a positive transformation in otherwise sedentary offices.


Informative and approachable, this book synthesizes a wealth of academic research into a set of practical, actionable habits that any office desker can take to improve his or her work environment and fight sitting disease


Can be a bit of a dry read.

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Bookstores and the media are bursting at the seams with information on the increasingly well-known hazards of “sitting disease,” that surprisingly dangerous condition that results when you sit on your butt all day. Several times a week you see headlines proclaiming that “sitting is the new smoking,” and a growing number of authors are chiming in with books on the subject.

In “Scared Sitless: The Office Fitness Book,” Larry Swanson, a Seattle-based massage therapist and personal trainer, approaches this problem from a unique perspective.

Books like “Get Up! Why Your Chair Is Killing You and What You Can Do About It,” by sitting-disease research pioneer James Levine, address the problem of sitting disease primarily from a public health and managerial perspective, urging change to address our sitting habit at the institutional and organizational levels.

Swanson takes a more down-to-earth approach, focusing on the personal health needs of computer users who work at a desk all day. His approach makes sense when you consider his background working one-on-one in a clinical and personal-fitness setting with individual desk jockeys.

Before diving into the details of what he calls “office fitness,” the author presents in the book’s first chapter a succinct summary of the scientific research on sitting disease, starting with Jeremy Morris’s famous double-decker bus research in London in the early 1950s and including studies published as recently as October 2014.

The first chapter also includes a thought-provoking list of reasons why we sit and explores some other hazards of office work, including repetitive strain injuries and psychological stress.

The book’s second chapter discusses how to turn “office fitness” behaviors into habits. This is obviously a much bigger topic than can be covered comprehensively in a single book chapter, but the author does a good job of describing a few basic approaches that can put new healthy behaviors on auto-pilot.

Swanson then applies the approaches to habit formation that he has set out in each of the following chapters. This gives the reader a range of options to try as they create new office fitness habits – from simply-to-implement “Tiny Habits” to more substantive habit-formation projects.

The Components of Office Fitness

The final four chapters of “Scared Sitless” are devoted to what the author sees as the major components of “office fitness”:

  • Routine Movement practices that re-introduce non-exercise activities back into our overly sedentary work days. This chapter follows logically from the “sitting disease” hazards set out in the first chapter.
  • Ergonomics Self-Care practices that empower desk workers to take control of their computer set-up. This chapter is probably the driest in the book and reads a bit like a reference guide, but it covers all of the equipment and accessories you’ll find in the modern office.
  • Posture education practices that help desk workers sit, stand, and move with good body mechanics. This chapter sets out research that shows the benefits of good posture and uses self-guided assessments and visualizations to help you develop better “body awareness.”
  • Exercises that counteract the physical effects of office work. There are no illustrations to accompany them, but the exercises are described well, and the author includes pointers to web pages that illustrate the exercises with both text explanations and video examples.

Three Promises

“Scared Sitless” promises on the cover that you will “work happier, lose weight, and live longer” with the information and advice offered in the book. The book largely fulfills these promises. The author refers to an impressive number of scientific research articles that show how his recommended “office fitness” practices can improve productivity and psychological well-being, burn calories, and prevent disease.

Each chapter includes a list of suggested readings and an academic-style list of sources consulted. Most of the sources are scholarly research articles, but a number of popular non-fiction books are also cited. While it is clear that the author has meticulously researched each subject area, the writing style is accessible, even humorous at times, and easy to read and comprehend.

Most of the authors in this field are academic researchers who are attempting to reach a broader audience. Swanson comes at sitting disease from his experiences as a massage therapist and personal trainer. His clinical expertise comes across clearly in the book and gives the book a different kind of authority than Levine’s and similar books.

Swanson could have included more stories and anecdotes, as Levine does in “Get Up!” His emphasis on data and research will be very helpful when you’re making your case to your boss for a treadmill desk, but it can make for somewhat dry reading at times. And the book might also have benefited from some illustrations, especially in the exercise chapter.

Still, we found “Scared Sitless” to be an inspirational guide to staying healthy at work. We have already adopted several “Tiny Habits” that are reducing sitting time and shaking up exercise routines here at the labs. And we found ourselves at several points in the book saying to ourselves, “I wish I’d had this information sooner.”

We recommend “Scared Sitless” for anyone who works in an office. The habits outline within the book’s pages can help make a positive change in an otherwise sedentary lifestyle.

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