“Sitting is the New Smoking”: Affordable Ergonomics Can Keep Us Healthy and Working Longer . . . .

Fewer and fewer folk out there still smoke (huddling outdoors if you are addicted to nicotine creates challenges during Prairie Winters.) Everyone knows the dangers of smoking (even if people act in denial of them . . .  . )

But many more people sit all day, every day, five (or more) days per week, in front of their desks. Sitting is “the new smoking,” a friend recently commented to me.

Bolstered by reading various articles since 2013 in the Associated Press and by observing two mentors who are full converts to standing while they work, I have been transitioning over the past six months to a standing desk. On a day when I feel too tired to stand, I do sometimes sit down. But I find that having a stool that allows me to perch (or lean), near my raised computer when I feel fatigued, often provides the necessary support.

In part due to this change, I have lost about five pounds, drink more water (another health-giver), and concentrate much better over long periods of time. Standing also reminds me to get out and take a short walk each afternoon (especially when the weather’s good!), so that I don’t spend whole spring and summer days “cooped up” in my office. (Even the coops of chicken, on which that metaphor is based are being replaced with more humane living spaces, on chicken farms, these days.) Standing when one works leads to better overall health.

Doctors say that even three, hour-long workouts at the gym each week cannot counter the effect of prolonged weekday sitting. Some workers try slow walking and cycling on low-speed treadmills or stationary bikes, burning approximately 300-350 calories in the course of a work day. That’s like adding the benefit of a half-hour cardio session, for each day that you stand at work.

Now some critics complain that ergonomics can be a costly business. And it’s true that you should wear good sneakers or at least walking shoes (if you use orthotics, then obviously you must wear them at work). But you (likely) own those already, so footwear doesn’t really add to the bill. You should also stand on an anti-fatigue mat. And while they can run in the hundreds of dollars, some inexpensive and adequate models can be found via Amazon and other online sellers for under $40. The floor walkers and greeters at many stores use these, themselves.

And while raised desks vary in features and cost (some priced ridiculously at hundreds of dollars), you can always test out standing at work by raising your existing desk on large bricks. Or you can buy cheap adjustable legs and a table top from the nearest Ikea (or similar vendor). (The internet even has postings on how to make such standing desks “on the cheap.”) And Amazon (for one) also sells desktop risers, to raise the height of your current writing/typing surface.

One reason that I began standing at work was that in years past, I remember having done good work standing as a teaching assistant and as a paper presenter (at conferences or workshops). It’s not altogether surprising that doctors say that our brains function better, when we stand.  Other health benefits also accrue. The two mentors I referred to earlier, who both stand at work, report less joint pain, fewer back problems (incl. arthritis), better concentration and circulation. They also maintain a healthy weight, even if they don’t always get to work out, during their “off” hours.

The Associated Press has reported links between too much sitting and obesity, risk of Diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Dr. James Levine (an Endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic) is quoted as saying “There’s a glob of information that sitting is killing us. You’re basically sitting yourself into a coffin.”  If that’s not motivation to stand or move at work, what would be?

With trends toward mobile technology (Google glasses, iWatches, etc.) more and more people are standing, moving and even commuting while working, this change is becoming more and more the norm.

Clients, prospects: if you’re not already standing, as you read this posting, would you consider trying out (starting part-time) a standing or adjustable desk? Or could you at least set a timer to stand and walk for about 10 minutes for every hour that you spend seated at a desk? You might be surprised by how much better you soon begin to feel!

Standing and moving at work is as important as daily exercise and in fact contributes to it. You wouldn’t smoke nicotine cigarettes these days, would you? So why are you still sitting most or all of your working hours? . . . Curious? Give it a few weeks’ trial. Chances are, you’ll never look back.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.