Sitting Kills, Moving Heals Review

Some time ago, I received a review copy of Joan D. Vernikos’ book Sitting Kills, Moving Heals: How Simple Everyday Movement Will Prevent Pain, Illness and Early Death – and Exercise Alone Won’t.

I’ve been reading the book on and off for weeks and it has already had a positive effect on how willing I am to do household chores. 🙂


Joking aside, Sitting Kills, Moving Heals is a book about an important topic: the deleterious effect our sedentary lifestyle has on our health and our quality of life.

Because I’ve read James Levine’s book about the subject, I was very interested in what Joan Vernikos has to say about the subject.

Joan Vernikos is a former NASA scientist and a former director of the NASA Life Sciences Division. Because of her background, Vernikos has a unique angle on the “sitting problem”. Her basic thesis is that the symptoms astronauts suffer fom after they have spent time in weightlessness are the same we suffer from as the consequence of too much sitting.

Astronauts and sedentary adults are both deprived of gravity – the former because they spend time in space and the latter because of too much sitting. The symptoms of gravity deprivation are the symptoms that have been associated with the aging process  – but actually appear to be the consequence of physical inactivity, not the aging process.

In other words, both astronauts and sedentary adults suffer from gravity deprivation syndrome.

What are the symptoms of gravity deprivation syndrome?

There is a long list of symptoms, but I picked a few that especially caught my eye.

  • decreased strength
  • balance problems
  • stooped posture (lack of use atrophies stabilizer muscles that support spine)
  • sluggish gut
  • urinary incontinence (even in young women)
  • flabby muscles
  • increased fatigability
  • decreased testosterone, decreased growth hormone
  • aching joints

If you want to test yourself, go find a stairwell and walk down a flight of steps. If you can walk down without watching your feet and without taking support of the railing, you’re doing pretty well.

I tested myself and found I can do it pretty easily, but I think it would’ve been more difficult a couple of years ago when I was suffering from runners’ knee and my physical activity was minimal.

What can you do about gravity deprivation syndrome?

The answer to the problem is not more exercise.

Joan introduces a long list of “gravity habits” (G-habits) and their benefits in counteracting the effects of too much sitting. In a nutshell,  you simply need to increase your natural everyday activity. G-habits or everyday physical activities vary from standing up from lying down, doing your dishes, going up (or down) stairs, riding on a roller coaster to jumping on a trampoline.

For exercise, Vernikos especially recommends yoga or tai chi.

Who is Sitting Kills, Moving Heals meant for?

Frankly, I think this is a book everyone should read, but I recommend it especially to

  • anyone who “hates exercise” and needs motivation to become physically active again,
  • anyone who leads a sedentary lifestyle and is worried about their health,
  • for people who are forced to long bed rest because of disease or disability (like people suffering from strokes, spinal cord injury etc)

The book is an easy read and easy to put into action in your own life.

Grab your own copy here.


  1. Satu, I wonder if reducing your weight helps. At one stage I used to feel really stiff and sore when I walked down my stairs at home, whereas now I can almost bounce down (unless suffering from DOMS).

    I put it down to more exercise but I suspect less weight might have the same impact as some of the gravity habits listed!

    Do you agree?


    • Satu says:

      Difficult to say. I’d put it down to more exercise too – after all, when you exercise, you take advantage of gravity. Too much sitting or lying down is what diminishes the effect of gravity and that is a “bad thing”.

  2. Miz says:


    • Satu says:

      I can recommend the book! It is an interesting book written from a interesting angle. I certainly have a different view of everyday stuff like standing up, going up and down stairs, what is good for balance etc etc..

  3. Aimee says:

    I rarely sit. We have a counter with bar stools in the kitchen where I keep my laptop. I push the stool underneath and stand. After working all night sitting makes me tired. I find if I keep moving and stay on my feet I don’t feel fatigued. However, as soon as I sit I feel instantly tired.

    When I worked on a post-op unit, one of the immediate goals for patients who’ve had surgery was to get them up and moving. Many people who suffer from debilitating back pain find it more comfortable to be standing or walking rather than sitting.

    Very interesting Satu.

  4. I stand all day at work and the thing i look forward to is to sit down.. but maybe walking around can be just as good =)

    • Satu says:

      Hi Paul!

      According to Vernikos, getting up from sitting and sitting down are better for you than constant standing (or constant sitting). So if you sit when you get home, at least remember to get up as often as you can 🙂

  5. As soon as I read this I had to go and see if I could walk down without the railing or looking down (going up was easy). I was able to do it, but it was unnerving. I think of myself as being fitter than I’ve ever been, but as I get older I have definitely noticed a sense of wariness around certain activities that involve being surefooted. I am definitely going to check this book out! Thanks 🙂

    • Satu says:

      What disturbs me most about this is that you barely notice what is happening to you because it happens so slowly. It’s easy to lose balance and proprioception. Not so long ago there was a power cut in our house and I couldn’t use the elevator to get down as usual – I felt like a blind bat trying to feel my way down the stairs with the help of a little torch.

      Then some young bloke ran the stairs down in the dark without any help. I just thought – what the hell, am I going blind too!?

  6. Marion says:

    Hi Satu! Sorry to late to this one, but this post is really great! I never thought of couch potatoes as analogous to astronauts, gravity-wise, which is so very interesting! Really thought provoking. I’m certain that this piece of information will end up in future conversations. 😀

    🙂 Marion

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