No, it’s not the glazed donuts at company meetings, too much coffee, or the microwave snacks in the break room. Nor is it the stale air or the fluorescent lighting. While these may contribute to ill-health, a greater danger is sitting down to do your job day after day.
In fact, you compound your health risk by sitting after work when you’re commuting home, eating dinner, and watching TV.
Inactivity As A Health Risk
Ill health is caused by prolonged inactivity. While inactivity may appear innocuous enough, it creates a sluggish metabolism, and it is this that undermines health. Although it may be a slight exaggeration, prolonged sitting has been dubbed as the new smoking.
On average, an office worker will spend 5 hours and 41 minutes per day sitting at their desk and 7 hours sleeping at night.
Standing Desks, No Longer a Curiosity
For centuries, some of the most famous writers in history have understood the benefits of standing desks. Ernest Hemingway used to stand in front of his dressing table to type his epic works. He was only following a tradition used by Virginia Woolf, Vladimir Nabokov, Winston Churchill, Charles Dickens, and Soren Kierkegaard.
While it may be difficult to establish a link between standing to write and the production of great literature, Mayo Clinic endocrinologist James Levine, has established a link between prolonged sitting and health problems.
“Research has linked sitting for long periods of time with a number of health concerns, including obesity and metabolic syndrome — a cluster of conditions that includes increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels. Too much sitting also seems to increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.”
Reduce Risk of Serious Health Problems
Standing more at work reduces the risk of the following health problems:
· Type 2 Diabetes
· Cardiovascular Disease
· Lower Longevity
More Exercise Is Not the Answer
An obvious solution might appear to be to exercise more before or after work. But in an article entitled, “Stand Up While You Read This!” evolutionary biologist Olivia Judson counters this suggestion:
“It doesn’t matter if you go running every morning, or you’re a regular at the gym. If you spend most of the rest of the day sitting — in your car, your office chair, on your sofa at home — you are putting yourself at increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, a variety of cancers and an early death. In other words, irrespective of whether you exercise vigorously, sitting for long periods is bad for you.”
Although it may sound eccentric, the best way to stay healthy at a desk job is to alternate sitting with standing and a sit stand desk can help with this. The video below explains how this works:
Find Ways to Stand More
The idea of standing more at work is difficult to grasp. Apart from the idea of using a standing desk to continue to work, what other practical steps are possible?
Here are four suggestions:
· When making a telephone call, stand.
· Instead of sitting across a table to discuss business i, go for a walk in the corridor or outside.
· Set a timer for 30 minutes, then stand or walk for a three minute break.
· Stand or walk outside when having lunch rather than sitting in the breakroom.
With a little ingenuity, you can find ways to sit less and stand and walk more.
Any movement is better than no movement, including leisurely movement. Standing alone causes the muscles of the hips, buttocks, thighs and calves to be activated. This then sets off a number of positive metabolic processes. You will burn calories and might even lose weight and increase energy. You will burn sugar in your bloodstream.
It’s a Challenge
Admittedly, the idea of sitting less goes against the grain. It upsets our paradigms about the nature of work. Productivity has long been associated with sitting down and spending many hours working to finish a project. In addition, it’s difficult to write, calculate, or use the computer while standing for several hours. But the whole idea is to make standing the default rather than sitting.
In other words, sitting itself is not the problem—it’s prolonged sitting. By finding ways to stimulate your metabolism, you’re also improving your health. While it’s a challenge to adopt this new way of working in an office, it’s definitely worth persisting in developing this new habit.