Did you know most Australian adults sit for an average of nine hours a day? This is longer than the time most people spend sleeping. Even though evidence to support the fact that diabetes, certain cancers, heart disease and early death are the effects of sitting too long…we continue to do it.
This supporting evidence isn’t a new revelation either. 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.
With technological advances and ergonomic experts, we are making sitting more comfortable and therefore more enticing. So what’s the solution?
Luckily some savvy office workers are finally coming to terms with the fact that humans have evolved to stand. Many residents of the Pro Hub have taken a step towards better health with the purchasing of standing desks. Heard about them? They look like normal desks, but with the touch of a button they can raise and lower to whatever height you like.
So, is it time for you to buy a standing desk? Let’s examine the evidence.
There are the effects of sitting too long we can actually feel like: sore backs and necks. 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. Eek!
University College London researcher Dr Emmanuel Stamatakis found 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.
And on the weight loss side, for the average adult, standing burns more calories and involves more muscular contraction than sitting.
But it’s important to also note that 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.
Enforced standing has actually been used as an interrogation technique (though former US secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld couldn’t understand why it was only for four hours — he stood for eight to ten hours a day).
So the perfect way to obtain the health benefits of standing and reduce the potential adverse effects is to alternate between sitting and standing. Stand up, sit less and move more. Spend half the day with your standing desk raised, the other half lower it so you can sit.
Alternating between sitting and standing will increase muscular contractions, stimulating blood flow and result in more calories burnt and healthier blood sugar levels. Recent findings show that alternating between 30 minutes of sitting and standing can improve blood sugar levels after a meal.
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