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Prolonged Sitting

Stand More and Sit Less – At Work and Away From Work

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It has been established that too much sitting is detrimental to your health. It is also quite apparent that an hour a day of exercise — and most people don’t get anywhere near that much — can’t make up for sitting all day in the office plus a few hours commuting, watching TV and the other sedentary activities we indulge in.  So what can we do, short of quitting our jobs and moving to the country, if we really want to rescue our health?

The answer is that we need to find things to do at work to keep us on our feet more. For those with a desk-based job, there are a few possibilities, such as: get up and stretch, get a cup of coffee or a glass of water, go to the washroom more often because of the previous activity, stand up when talking on the phone or even when consulting in person with colleagues. For some of us, we really are desk bound by our tasks and may only be able to get a half hour of respite from these activities in a day, without attracting unwanted attention from our superiors. Others may manage a bit more legitimate standing time, but will probably still be limited to a maximum of an hour or so per day. This just isn’t enough to overcome the negative effects of sitting too much.

A report on WebMD by HealthDay reporter Mary Elizabeth Dallas suggests “at least 2 hours a day standing on the job,” and goes on to suggest  four hours a day would be ideal. The report can be found here at http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/20150602/office-workers-on-your-feet.  The article is quite brief and is worth a quick review due to some of its other  recommendations.

Of course, you might also consider a more active lifestyle away from the office. You can walk your dog; if you don’t have a dog, offer to walk your neighbour’s dog. Take a long walk with a friend — maybe the friend you would otherwise be talking to on the phone or on Facebook.

Even after considering all these other possibilities, we still have to deal with the fact that we spend too much time sitting during our regular work day — and we probably can’t avoid sitting while we commute to and from work. Therefore, the solution still has to be to get off our seat and onto our feet while we are in the office. For this, the solution is a standing desk or a sit-stand desk or a treadmill desk.

Prolonged Sitting

Negative Health Effects of Sitting All Day

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Health Side Effects of prolonged Sitting

Exercise Is Not Enough

Doctors and physiologists recommend that people who work in a sedentary job also get some medium to high intensity exercise during their leisure hours. The actual recommended amounts varies from one specialist to another, so I’m not going to quote numbers here. Rather, the point I want to make is that current research indicates no amount of exercise can make up for too much time sitting.

As reported in Women’s Health Magazine http://www.womenshealthmag.com/fitness/sedentary-lifestyle , Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic states that our bodies evolved to move and to stand upright. He is quoted as saying, “As human beings, we evolved to stand upright. For thousands of generations, our environment demanded nearly constant physical activity.” Dr. Levine, the author of Move a Little, Lose a Lot, says “America suffers from ‘sitting disease.’ ”

In my previous article, “Can Too Much Sitting Kill You?” I showed how the incidence of many serious diseases can be exacerbated by spending too much time sitting, whether at work or on leisure time. In an article published in Annals of Internal Medicine http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=2091327 , the authors concluded that “Prolonged sedentary time was independently associated with deleterious health outcomes regardless of physical activity.” Dr. David Alter of the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, one of the authors of the study, stated on CBS News http://www.cbsnews.com/news/too-much-sitting-raises-risk-of-death-even-if-you-exercise/ that half an hour or an hour of exercise every day does not make it OK to sit for the balance of the day. Among other things, the study found that the risk of contracting diabetes increased by 91%.

In the CBS News article, there is also quite a bit of discussion about getting away from our sedentary habits. One that is discussed at some length is the use of a standing desk.

Prolonged Sitting

Too Much Sitting Can Kill You

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There is a lot of talk right now about the disadvantages of sitting, whether at a desk, in a car or in front of the television, for extended periods of time. Sluggishness is just one of the many symptoms pointed out in this graphic from The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/health/sitting/Sitting.pdf A few of the other considerations are degeneration of various muscle groups, skeletal problems in the neck, back and shoulders, poor leg circulation and possible damages to internal organs, including cancer of the colon.

If you spend enough time sitting while at work, you are likely to suffer from at least some “brain fog.” This means that you will be under-achieving and will accomplish less work. As an employee, this might mean you will be overlooked for promotions and you will get smaller raises. If you are a business owner, you can probably guess what a few hours of lower productivity for yourself or your employees might do to your bottom line.
Now let’s get to the title of this article, ” Too Much Sitting Can Kill You.” This article from Harvard Health Publications http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/much-sitting-linked-heart-disease-diabetes-premature-death-201501227618 points out that all the sitting we do every day ” could be sending us to an early grave.” Higher risk of cardiovascular problems, type 2 diabetes, cancer and even a greater possibility of suffering from dementia have all been linked to inactivity, and specifically to sitting too much.

Even if you are working in a job that is traditionally sedentary, there are lots of things you can do to make some small improvements in your activity. Rather than phoning or emailing a colleague, walk to their office for a brief chat. Drink plenty of fluids, particularly water. Not only will you have a reason to go to the water cooler, but you will also need to get up to go to the washroom more often. Don’t worry about the extra breaks. You will actually accomplish more because each of these interruptions will allow you to return to work more energized. You might try standing while on the phone.

Perhaps the best solution is to find a way to do most of your work while standing up. This is where the standing desk or even the treadmill desk comes in. But this is the subject of another story.