‘Sitting is the new smoking’, or so say proponents of the backlash against traditional desks in the office. Research into the effects of sedentary desk jobs have revealed that sitting can cause a multitude of health issues, from obesity to diabetes and cancer.
Dr James Levine thinks so. As an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic, he has completed research into the detrimental effects of sitting. He is backing a wave of scientists who are claiming the next health epidemic will be caused by constant sitting and that we need to get off our behinds before it gets any worse.
This is not something that can be merely solved by going to the gym after work. Studies show that short bursts of aerobic exercise won’t undo a daily routine based on sitting still; instead, we need a complete office lifestyle overhaul.
The solution is to incorporate movement – whether sitting, pacing or other forms of activity – into your day. Standing desks provide the most convenient way of doing this, but what exactly will you be avoiding?
Firstly, there is the reduced risk of obesity. It should come as no surprise that sitting all day is not particularly good for your waistband. Dr Levine conducted a study with a group of office workers to find out why some put on weight and some did not.
By stitching small sensors into their clothing, which detected every tiny movement, Dr Levine found that the workers who did not put on weight were spending an average 2.25 more hours per day walking around. This was not even necessarily intentional; for example, these subjects had happened to choose the stairs rather than the lift. It is these opportunities that can make all the difference.
Dr Levine also found that sitting for long periods correlates with reduced effectiveness in the regulation of glucose levels, which dramatically increases your chances of getting type 2 diabetes. Sitting also increases your risk of getting cardiovascular disease by 125 per cent, including chest pain and heart attacks. Then there is the potential link with certain types of cancer, with breast and colon cancer particularly influenced by lack of activity.
If you are thinking about changing your office behaviour, remember to ease into a standing desk. The key is variety – you should not be standing all day, but interchanging sitting with standing and walking. Remember that any movement is good and will improve your health in the long run.
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