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A Conversation with Dr. Scott Diamond

A graduate of Northeastern University with a Bachelor of Business Administration and Life University with a Doctorate of Chiropractic, Scott Diamond opened his practice in Boston's Back Bay in 1996. Dr. Diamond is a certified practitioner of Sacral Occipital Technique and is a member of the Sedentary Behavior Research Network and the New England Chapter of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. He is also a certified ergonomics assessment specialist and a certified office ergonomics evaluator.

Beyond his resume of chiropractic associations and accomplishments, Dr. Diamond is a passionate crusader against "sitting disease" and an advocate for standing in the classroom.

How did you first become aware of "sitting disease"?

I opened my chiropractic practice in 1996. Over the years, I started to see a prevalence of increased muscular-skeletal problems in my patients: more lower back pain, more shoulder discomfort, neck pain. There were postural problems -- slouching, heads forward, hump in the upper back, shoulders rounded -- that made young patients look older. And people seemed a little heavier in the gut. As I started to dig deeper during my initial visits and consultations, a consistent theme appeared: all of these people sat for a living. And not only did they sit for a living, but they sat for prolonged, uninterrupted periods of time.

What are the biggest health risks of sitting too much?

Sitting goes completely against how the human body is wired to work. We are genetically engineered to move. We were running away from dinosaurs, we were picking corn in a field, we were getting up at 5 a.m. with the sun and getting milk. It's only relatively recently that technology has replaced a lot of the motion-based activities we used to perform. And what studies are finding is that when you sit for a very brief period of time, say 30 minutes, the human body goes into a "sleep mode" just like a computer does, and things start to shut down. And that shutting down is not healthy for the human body. Bad things start to happen.

How bad? For starters, we burn fewer calories when we're sitting. But even more insidious is the fact that prolonged sitting actually changes the body's metabolism. A molecule called lipase is vital to helping muscles absorb fat. When we sit, the body doesn't produce lipase, which allows the fat to go unchecked and do nasty things like clog arteries and become body fat.

Why is your "mission" focused on kids and schools?

Because I'm a father. I have two daughters, ages 10 and 8, and it's sometimes an effort to get them moving. Young people are spending an increasing amount of sedentary time interacting with technology -- think iPhones, iPads, and Xboxes. Combine that with a decrease in physical education in schools and we've got a host of potential physical repercussions.

Professionally, I've seen the consequences of kids at this age starting the sitting cycle now. Where do they end up in 6, 8, 10 years? In my office. And not only in my office, but at their primary care doctor with a host of health issues related to their sedentary lifestyles.

Kids are busting with energy. ADHD is on the rise. How can we use children's fidgeting to enhance learning, rather than trying to eliminate this natural impulse? We need to create an outlet for kids to get that energy out of their system so they can focus better, perform better, and feel better. One solution is the Alphabetter desk.

What do you consider the top benefits of kids standing in the classroom?

When you stand, you burn more calories, which contributes to weight loss. Studies also show that when you stand, you increase the amount of oxygen to the brain by about 5 to 15 percent. That helps kids to focus better. And for students, especially the increasing number of them who are struggling with ADHD, the ability to focus is imperative to educational success. Finally, there was a study done that shows that fidgeting children learn more, and learn more quickly, than kids who stay still. Put simply, fidgeting allows you to focus better. So creating an environment for fidgeting just makes sense.

What's unique about the Alphabetter desk is that it has what we call the swinging patent pendulum. This desk allows people -- whether standing or seated -- to swing their feet. So when the kids are standing there in class, or if they're a little tired and they're sitting there, they can put their foot on this pendulum at the base of the desk and they can swing. A classroom full of children swinging away on the pendulum is an incredible sight: they look like they're riding bicycles at high speed!

What's your ultimate goal for Sit2Stand for Learning?

Studies are going to continue to conclusively show that sitting is bad for you. My ultimate goal and vision is that everybody stands up more than they sit, and that every classroom in America has at least has one standing desk. And if we can create a way for every student in every classroom to have a standing desk, all the better. Education is changing to become more interactive, utilizing the benefits of technology; we need to have a classroom that allows children to meet this taxing physical demand.

How do you feel about the fact that if your mission with Sit2Stand for Learning is successful, it could one day put your chiropractic practice out of business?

I look forward to the day when people feel so good because they're standing more often that they come in once a month for a wellness tune-up, versus me running in place with them for years on end. I've been on the front lines against sitting disease for more than 16 years; I would rather address the root cause of the problem than treat the effects. If we all care about one thing the most, it's our future and our children. This is a gift we can give them.

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