Is Sitting The New Smoking?
Written by:Paula Coster BA (Hons), MSc. Associate Member CIEHF
Are you sitting down as you read this? If you have been sitting for longer than an hour you’ve been seated for too long!
Now, take a look at your typical day.
Do you sit down for breakfast? Do you sit down at work and also for lunch? Do you sit on a train, or in your car for the commute to and from work? And then at the end of the day flop on the sofa after your evening meal?
If you are like most of us, the answer to the above is YES.
Over and over again, research is showing the cumulative effects of sitting down all day. The results aren’t good. People who sit for too long increase their risk for:
HEART DISEASE Adults who sit down to work are more likely to develop heart failure. Prolonged sitting raises risks of fatal heart problems by 64%.
DIABETES Sitting for long periods reduces the body’s ability to regulate glucose level and this can lead to type 2 diabetes.
OBESITY Standing burns more calories than sitting. Research shows people who stand up for around 3 hours a day are less likely to gain weight than those who spend their working day seated.
CANCER Many recent studies have found a link between cancer and extended periods of sitting. To counter this, small breaks from sitting throughout the day are recommended to protect the body from cancers
EARLY DEATH Strong correlations between a sedentary lifestyle and early death have been accepted for a long time.
Advice is often to take time out during your day to go for a walk.
I know all this, but let’s be realistic. We all get busy …
A lunchtime walk or 5 minutes spent stretching can easily sink to the bottom of your priorities. Maybe you could consider a standing or sit-stand desk as an alternative way to improve your health.
Sit-Stand Desks And Standing Desks
Standing desks and sit-stand desks are a fairly new solution to the modern problem of desk work. Often used interchangeably, a standing desk, strictly speaking, is one that requires the user to stand when using it whereas a sit-stand desk is height adjustable and can be used in a seated or a standing position.
Research indicates sit-stand desk can be very effective at improving health and well-being. Recent studies have shown that by standing for a couple of hours during the working day you can feel healthier, more focused and increase your productivity.
Benefits Of A Sit-Stand Desk
Many studies suggest there are real benefits to be gained from using a sit-stand desk.
It burns calories
That’s right, choosing to stand rather than to sit and burn calories. Studies show standing for your afternoon’s work instead of sitting can burn 174 calories more. That soon adds up. Just standing up burns more than 50 extra calories an hour than sitting down, so standing for three hours a day adds up to 750 calories a week or 39,000 calories a year!
It lowers blood sugar. Research suggests blood sugar levels return to normal after eating if you refrain from sitting back down at your desk.
It can reduce the risk of shoulder pain and back pain
Standing alleviates the pressure on your neck and back. Standing for just over an hour a day reduces neck and back pain by about 54%.
It can increase your focus and productivity
Many studies show productivity increases by nearly 50% after the introduction of a sit-stand desk.
Things To Consider Before Buying A Sit-Stand Desk
Are you keen to try? Have we convinced you of the benefits? Before making any expensive purchases, there are a few things you should consider.
Firstly, take time to adjust. Switching to standing from sitting down all day is a big change. If you do start using a standing desk, build up the time you stand slowly. 20 minutes standing is a good starting point. Concentration, when you are standing, will become easier over time.
Set it up correctly. Remember that a proper workstation set-up is important to make sure the desk meets your needs whether you are sitting down or standing up. Your eye-level should be in line with your screen and your elbows at 90º.
A mat can help reduce strain on knees, think about using one.
Keep on moving. A sit-stand desk has great health benefits but, for even more, keep up the other activity every day. Look for different ways to incorporate more movement into your day. Maybe a pedometer can help you track your steps.
And remember, if you do choose to stand at work, you’ll be in very good company. Winston Churchill, Virginia Woolf, Charles Dickens and Leonardo da Vinci were said to have used stand-up desks too!