Sitting All Day at Work Can Be Dangerous

But, so can standing...

Cornell University has studied the effects of sitting and standing all day at work and report some interesting facts that today's employers and workers would do well to consider. In today's world, we all sit more at work than our parents did and certainly more than their parent's generation. But, is this a good thing? Maybe not.

Apparently, if we sit for more than an hour a whole bunch of chemical changes take place in our body that lead to fat being deposited rather than being absorbed by muscles. It's also possible that sitting for too long may make us more prone to heart and kidney disease.

Sitting of course is necessary to do many jobs because it enables us to perform tasks that rely on fine motor skills more effectively. That's why we drive sitting down and graphic designers usually design at desks. Having said that, ergonomics specialists have for many years encouraged us to get up occasionally and move around. And, the proliferation and increasing popularity of standing desks shows there is interest in becoming more mobile in the office.

There is little doubt that frequent small breaks are good for our bodies and our overall performance and productivity. But, if sitting for too long can be detrimental to our health, what about standing for too long?

Well, we all know that if we stand too long we get tired. It puts pressure on our cardiovascular system and can increase our chances of developing varicose veins. And what about those fine motor skills? If we stand, our performance might be compromised. So, standing all day is not the answer to the negative effects of sitting all day, obviously.

By now, you'd think the simple answer is the sit-stand workstation mentioned earlier, but in Cornell's field studies they found few benefits. This was mainly due to people only standing infrequently and for very short periods of time. In fact, it would appear once the novelty wears off, people tend to revert to their old habit of sitting at their computer all the time. And, there were also posture issues that can cause health risks to neck and wrists.

All sorts of other, almost gimmicky, ideas have been tried such as having workstations that double as bicycles or training machines; not unexpectedly these resulted in poor work performance.

Cornell University's advice for better and healthier ergonomics at work is to follow a regimen of standing for eight minutes every 20 minutes and move around for two minutes.

Apparently, the exact timing is less of an issue than to at least have a movement break every twenty to thirty minutes - not just stand, but move around to a point where you are stimulating blood circulation to your muscles. No need to do calisthenics, walking around the office, or your home will be sufficient. If you are in a meeting stand up for a while, walk up and down a flight of stairs every hour, go and get a coffee from a coffee shop a block or two away. It really doesn't matter - what counts is that you get into the habit of moving while working rather than just sitting and listening to your arteries clog up.

Source: Cornell University Ergonomics Web

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