Is sitting bad / good for your business?
Are you supposed to stand or sit at work? Which is better for you? It seems to be forever changing, as to what you should be doing to stay fit and healthy.
According to a new study from Smithsonian Mag - as well as one of our previous articles - sitting is in fact, the new smoking. We sit for around 5 hours and 41 minutes a day on average, as the way we work is more geared towards offices, desks and computers.
Businesses here in the UK are losing 4.3 days per employee each year through workplace sickness absences, costing millions of pounds in lost productivity. With this in mind, it is paramount that employers start taking a more proactive approach in employee health in order to save money and improve morale.
So why is all this sitting so bad for us? Essentially, it lowers our metabolism, meaning our body stops using energy as quickly. This means we take longer to burn fat, leading to obesity, heart disease and other weight-related problems. It can also lead to back and neck issues, as few people have their chairs and desks set up for proper posture.
Of course, it can get more serious than a crick in the next. A study from the Annals of Internal Medicine - as referenced by CNN - found that if you are consistently sitting down for between 8 and 12 hours per day, your chances of developing type 2 diabetes increase by a shocking 90 per cent.
And all this sitting rarely ends well. In a world with plenty of other diseases, disasters and conflicts, inactivity is ranked by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as the fourth-highest risk factor for premature death.
You might be thinking that this can be offset with exercise. Unfortunately, although more and more people are going to the gym on a regular basis, studies suggest that this could be doing more long-term damage than good. Long periods of sitting followed by strenuous exercise can put extra unnecessary strain on our hearts and muscles, especially as many people neglect a proper warm-up before launching into a gym session.
So, is the answer to stand up all day? That might seem like the easy solution, but unfortunately it isn’t. A study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that people who spend their work day mostly standing have twice the likelihood of developing heart disease than those who spend their day mostly sitting.
The problem is that standing for long periods of time causes blood to pool in the legs, and the heart has to work harder to pump it around the body. This extra strain weakens it, leading to cardiovascular issues later in life. Standing all day can also cause inflammation, which is another heart disease risk factor.
A happy medium
James Levine conducted a very interesting study to better understand obesity and why some people appear to gain weight more easily than others. To do this, he tracked office workers’ and university students’ sitting habits throughout the day.
Using sensors sewn into participants’ underwear, scientists could look at all the subtle shifts and movements people made while sitting at their desks. Looking at all the data, Levine discovered that those who regularly stood up and moved around for at least 2.25 hours each day did not gain weight.
So you don’t have to choose between either standing or sitting. The best option is to move between the two, aiming to stand for at least 2 or 3 hours per day but sitting whenever it gets uncomfortable. Doing this can negate a lot of the health risks that doing one or the other all day can cause.
This is why adjustable standing desks are so useful. Being able to easily change the height of your desk means you can switch between standing and sitting at your leisure, without having to move to another area of the office or commit to one for the entire day.