Described by the scientific community as “the new smoking,” sitting is killing us. The negative effects of sedentary behaviour by office workers and television enthusiasts alike has led to a revolution in the home and office. People are starting to stand up for their health. Sitting is bad for you. There can be no doubt. Let's take a look at why and what we can do about it.
Negative health effects of sitting
It seems as if every day brings more evidence that sitting too much is bad for our health. “Stand Up Australia,” a study which analyzed the activity level of office professionals, determined that almost 80 percent of their work day is sedentary. Prolonged physical inactivity can lead to obesity, diabetes mellitus, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and colon, endometrial, and lung cancer. Guess what this means, folks? Sedentary (lack of) behaviour has a direct, positive correlation with four of the top ten leading causes of death reported by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Importantly, the research is telling scientists that sitting too much, in itself (regardless of exercise habits), is a health risk. So the poor office worker who faithfully gets in his recommended 30 minutes a day is still at increased risk for all of those deadly effects of inactivity.
Simply heading to the gym after work for an hour's long workout will not really make a dent in the damage done over years of sitting all day. Think about it! Most people sit at work, but arrive and leave in their car. That's already 8-10 hours of sitting per day. Add to this the television watching and screen use in the evening. Add sitting on a stationary bike at the gym (yes, this isn't a great way to exercise – stand on the pedals!). If you take your car to make short trips to the shops or drop the kids off at school then there's very little time left in the day for active moving and standing.
Legs that are permanently in a flexed position begin to experience problems due to the hip-flexors shortening. Your back will tighten up from the unnatural arch position caused by chairs. Necks become sore from arching over a desk. The upper back begins to round and slump as fatigue takes over and makes the body adopts positions that our ancestors never had to deal with for long periods of time.
Last year, the American Medical Association not only recommended that obesity should be recognized as a disease, but that employers should offer alternatives to sitting, to include standing desks. This trend is much more than simple supposition; we already know that physical activity directly reduces the risks of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes mellitus. But there’s more. Switching to a standing desk has shown to decrease diabetes risk and blood pressure. A study published in Preventing Chronic Disease is just one of many which revealed that reducing time spent sitting decreases back and neck pain and even improves mood. Others have shown that productivity improves when using a standing desk. A study performed at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas showed that children benefited from the equipment; they were more engaged in classroom activities and had better interaction with their teacher. If these don’t get your attention, hopefully this will: standing, rather than sitting, burns up to twenty-five percent more calories, as indicated in the same Texas A&M study.
Pretty soon that form you fill out at the doctor’s office will inquire not only about how much you exercise, but also about how much time you spend sitting.
In addition to the concrete scientific evidence, those who are using standing desks are also saying they lead to other healthier habits, such as picking healthier lunch choices and walking more often. It’s much easier to walk down the hall when you’re already standing than when you’re slumped in your chair.
Pretty soon that form you fill out at the doctor’s office will inquire not only about how much you exercise, but also about how much time you spend sitting. Be a good patient and get ahead of the game by noting how much time you spend in a chair or on the couch and then finding ways to reduce it. Doctor's are beginning to prescribe standing desks and ergonomic workstations to patients. Countries like Sweden have laws that allow office workers to choose standing desks as part of their working setup.
This video from TedEd explains why sitting is bad for you. Watch this video! Your health depends upon it.
Sitting down for brief periods can help us recover from stress or recuperate from exercise. But nowadays, our lifestyles make us sit much more than we move around. Are our bodies built for such a sedentary existence? Murat Dalkilinç investigates the hidden risks of sitting down.
References: http://www.medibank.com.au/Client/Documents/Pdfs/Stand_Up_Australia.pdf http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/172/4/419.abstract http://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2012/11_0323.htm?s_cid=pcd9e154_x http://qz.com/257224/the-standing-desk-industry-may-have-a-new-target-kids/ http://www.hse.ie/eng/staff/Benefits_Services/Cycle_to_Work_Scheme