Ep23: How Being Sedentary Is Damaging You (According to NASA) | with Dr. Joan Vernikos

If you work in one position all day long, whether sitting, standing, or otherwise, it’s important to understand how gravity is negatively affecting your health when you are sedentary. We’ve all heard the phrase, “Sitting is the New Smoking,” but it goes much deeper than that.

My guest in this episode is Dr. Joan Vernikos, the former director of the Life Sciences Division at NASA and author of the book Sitting Kills, Moving Heals. She is one of the world’s foremost experts on stress from a physiological perspective. Having worked on the team that helped put men on the moon as well as helping John Glenn return safely to Earth, she knows as much as there is to be known about how the human body is affected by gravity, both positively and negatively.

If you have any intention of being healthy enough to play with your grandchildren someday, this episode is a must-listen and will blow your mind. Everything you thought you knew about exercise and movement will most likely change after learning what Dr. Joan has discovered in her 4 decades of research for NASA.

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Here’s What You’ll Learn:

  • Joan’s background studying the first astronauts at NASA
  • The physiological effects of gravity
  • How astronauts are affected by micro gravity
  • The problem with exercise in space
  • Why the circulatory system needs the stimulation of gravity
  • The surprising parallels between being sedentary and being in space
  • How your body is like an instrument that needs to be tuned
  • Misdiagnoses of pre-diabetic symptoms
  • Why exercise does not guarantee healthy living
  • A few reasons why you should be standing instead of “waiting” when visiting a doctor’s office
  • NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity) movement
  • What moving every 30 minutes can do to improve overall health
  • How to recognize the symptoms of being too sedentary
  • Joan’s final experiment at NASA and how the body is stimulated by physical change
  • 5 practical ways to alter routines and maximize cognitive function
  • How standing and sitting can be good for you
  • Joan’s upcoming book “Designed to Move”
  • Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain” by John Ratey, MD

Useful Resources Mentioned:

Joan’s Website

Joan’s Book Sitting Kills, Moving Heals

This Podcast Featured in:

My ultimate guide to building a healthy workstation. Joan’s books and take-aways from this episode helped inform the creation of that ultimate guide, which is one of the most downloaded guides I’ve produced.

Continue to Listen & Learn

Sitting Is Killing You, But Standing Isn’t the Answer (And Neither is Exercise)

Tired of Sitting and Want to Ignite Your Energy & Creativity? Start Moving More.

Ep123: The Solution to Your Sedentary Lifestyle | with Ben Greenfield

Ep30: How Regular Movement Makes You Smarter | with Dr. John Ratey

Ep02: Deskbound – Standing Up To a Sitting World | with Dr. Kelly Starrett

More Resources for Moving More »

Our Generous Sponsors:

This episode is made possible by Ergodriven, the makers of the Topo Mat, my #1 recommendation for anyone interested in moving more at their height-adjustable workstation. Listen, standing desks are only great if you’re standing well, otherwise you’re constantly fighting fatigue and chronic pain. Not like any other anti-fatigue mat, the Topo is scientifically proven to help you move more throughout the day which helps reduce discomfort and also increase your focus and productivity. And they’re really fun and a great conversation starter.

Guest Bio:


Born to Greek parents in Alexandria Egypt Joan Vernikos earned her PhD in pharmacology at the University of London before coming to teach Pharmacology to Medical Students at Ohio State University. Recruited in 1964 to join NASA’s Ames Research Center, CA because of her research expertise in stress, she later pioneered work on how living with minimal gravity in Space adversely affects the health of astronauts. This led to her formulate the similarities between living in Space and the aging process here on Earth. In 1998 as NASA’s Director of Life Sciences, she was instrumental in the return to space of American hero John Glenn at the age of 77. To bring her ideas to the public eye, Dr. Joan has published several books that present simple and effective plans for maintaining good health throughout life. They include The G-Connection: harness gravity and reverse Aging (1904), Stress Fitness for Seniors (2009) and Sitting Kills Moving Heals (2011) that launched awareness of the health problems of our sedentary lifestyles. Her latest books, Designed to Move, as well as, Stress Beyond 50 was published in 2016.

Show Credits:

This episode was edited by Curtis Fritsch, and the show notes were prepared and published by Jakin Rintelman. Special thanks to Krystle Penhall and Sarah Furie for helping to spread the love!

The original music in the opening and closing of the show is courtesy of Joe Trapanese (who is quite possibly one of the most talented composers on the face of the planet).

Note: I believe in 100% transparency, so please note that I receive a small commission if you purchase products from some of the links on this page (at no additional cost to you). Your support is what helps keep this program alive. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Zack Arnold (ACE) is an award-winning Hollywood film editor & producer (Cobra Kai, Empire, Burn Notice, Unsolved, Glee), a documentary director, father of 2, an American Ninja Warrior, and the creator of Optimize Yourself. He believes we all deserve to love what we do for a living...but not at the expense of our health, our relationships, or our sanity. He provides the education, motivation, and inspiration to help ambitious creative professionals DO better and BE better. “Doing” better means learning how to more effectively manage your time and creative energy so you can produce higher quality work in less time. “Being” better means doing all of the above while still prioritizing the most important people and passions in your life…all without burning out in the process. Click to download Zack’s “Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Creativity (And Avoiding Burnout).”