Office works normally have to spend at least eight hours of their work day sitting at a desk. This can inadvertently impact our health by encouraging weight gain (and hence lifestyle related disease) and decreasing physical activity. Furthermore, office workers tend to graze more across the day despite their lower energy output. These concerns have been backed by more science which encourages people to spend more time standing at work!
‘It seems the world is finally coming to terms with the fact that humans evolved to stand, not to sit – well, health researchers, savvy office workers and many commuters, at least.
The evidence is mounting to show that spending too much sitting at work, during your commute and for leisure increases your risk of diabetes, certain cancers, heart disease and early death.’
These concerns are not new to us but the problem is becoming more significant now that people are working even longer hours and becoming less active at home as well. Between sitting at work, sitting during the commute, sitting at home and sleeping – we get very minimal time on our feet.
‘This isn’t a new revelation. Bernardino Ramazzini first described the ill effects of too much sitting at work in the 1700s and advised people to break up sitting and stimulate blood flow.
But technological advances and ergonomic experts have made sitting more comfortable and more enticing. Australian adults now sit for an average of nearly nine hours a day. This is longer than the time that most people spend sleeping.’
However, you can’t be expected to take frequent walks at work so what is a solution? One solution may be a standing desk! A great idea that will probably become increasingly more common in the future. The desk can be adjusted so that you can sit or stand at it. Due to the negative statistics associated with long durations of sitting, this may be an important consideration.
‘Many people know when they’ve been sitting too long because their back or neck gets sore. These are effects many can relate to because we can actually feel them. But it’s what you can’t feel or see that you may need to be concerned about. Canadian researcher Dr Peter Katzmarzyk, for instance, found that those who sat almost all of the time had nearly a one-third higher risk of early death than those who stood almost all of the time.
University College London researcher Dr Emmanuel Stamatakisfound similar results among women in the United Kingdom: those whose work involved mostly standing/walking about had a 32% lower risk of early death than those who worked in sitting jobs.’
Standing more not only decreases your risk of early dealth but also type 2 diabetes.
‘For the average adult, standing burns more calories and involves more muscular contraction than sitting. One studyreported 2.5 times higher average muscular activity of the thigh when standing compared to sitting. This is important for improving blood sugar profiles and vascular health, reducing the risk of early death.’
Sitting and standing should be well balanced across the day. Too much standing can also have negative impacts on our health. As with anything in life, it is all about balance.
‘But it’s important to note prolonged standing can also have adverse health effects. Compared to sitting, when we stand, our hearts and circulatory systems work harder to maintain blood flow to the brain, because they are countering the effects of gravity. Standing still for long periods of time can lead to swelling, heaviness or cramping of the legs.
Alternating between sitting and standing will increase muscular contractions, stimulating blood flow and resulting in more calories burnt and healthier blood sugar levels. Recent findings from our lab show that alternating between 30 minutes of sitting and standing can improve blood sugar levels after a meal.’
Thinking of getting a standing desk? Fortunately, productivity has not shown to decrease with the swap so your employer need not worry about that. Below are also some options to get moving more if you are unable to get one.
‘Now, if you’re leaning towards getting a standing desk but are concerned about your concentration and productivity, there’s some good news. Research shows task performance such as typing, reading and performing cognitive tests is largely unaffected by standing desks. Thomas Jefferson, Winston Churchill, Virginia Woolf, and Ernest Hemingway fought off the urge to sit with the aid of standing desks. It might be time for you to do the same, and alternate between sitting and standing.’
‘If you’re still not ready for a stand-up desk, these tips might help get you moving:
- take regular breaks during long drives in the car
- stand up on public transport
- choose more active ways to hang out with friends (swap the cafe for a walk)
- stand at the bar instead of sitting on the comfy couches
- have standing meetings (they usually end faster)
- stand up while on the phone.’