Is sitting the new smoking…

Most of us sit whilst commuting to work, we sit at work, then we go home and usually sit some more!

According to results from the ‘Stand Up Australia’ survey[i], 77% of the working day is sedentary.  So, the average Australian spends 70% of the entire day (before, during and after work) in a sedentary position.

We all know it’s not good to sit all day, but do we really understand the harm it causes?  Is sitting really the new smoking?  When we sit for extended periods, our circulation is constricted, our metabolism slows, muscles shut off and our body switches to “idle” mode.  Another Australian Government study[ii] reports that sedentary behaviours are a known risk factor for some cancers, cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes and early death.

Research is telling us sitting too much makes us unhealthier, unfitter – possibly even dumber.  So is the modern-day health equivalent of smoking? and can also be attributed to lower productivity, boredom and absenteeism in the workplace.

Bottom line: there is nothing good about prolonged, chronic sitting.

So, what are the options for the average Australian who sits at a computer desk all day?  The simple answer is to get up and get moving, and here’s some tips about how it can be done:

Firstly, alternate you positions regularly – this is good for your muscles and joints, as well as your mind’s productivity.  Take a two-minute moving break at least once an hour to stretch or walk around.  But avoid using these breaks to go to the snack machine!. Instead of emailing a colleague, maybe walk to their desk or department and speak to them.  Consider doing some simple stretching exercises.

An increasingly popular, option for many desk-based employees is the use of standing or sit-stand desks. These can be purpose built for your work environment or you can also find them readily available and can be an ad on to your existing desk.  These desks adjust from sit to stand position quickly and easily – allowing users the flexibility to work at their desks in their preferred position.

Research and feedback suggest these flexible desk arrangements are effective in improving overall wellbeing and health.  Consider these facts:

  • Standing desks may lower your risk of type II Diabetes and Heart Disease.
  • Standing desks are known to reduce back pain – one of the most common complaints of office workers who sit all day.
  • Standing lowers your risk of weight gain and obesity. For the average adult, standing burns more calories and involves more muscular activity than sitting.
  • Standing desks help to improve mood and energy levels. Infact, they appear to have a positive influence on overall well-being.
  • Standing desks may boost productivity. Considering that standing desks appear to improve mood and energy levels, it is most likely they will boost productivity too.
  • Next time you have a meeting consider meeting standing up – you will find your meeting will usually be more productive and finish in good time!

Furthermore, research shows task performance such as typing, reading and performing cognitive tests are largely unaffected by standing desks[iii], and it appears people will actually use the option to stand if it is made available to them.

We reached out to our colleagues who use adjustable standing desks, undoubtedly all who have one, use it and love it.  Some of the benefits they recorded included reduced back pain and fatigue, an overall improvement in wellbeing and increased productivity.

Remember, don’t substitute sitting all day with standing all day – standing all day  would qualify as a prolonged position.  Instead, alternate between a sitting and standing position throughout the day.

Make the change!. You’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.

 [i] http://www.medibank.com.au/Client/Documents/Pdfs/Stand_Up_Australia.pdf

[ii]  http://www.comcare.gov.au/preventing/hazards/physical_hazards/sedentary_work

[iii] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0003687014000891